Wilmington Evening Journal - July 17, 1980
Walk gains confidence, sixth victory
By Ray Finocchiaro, Staff Writer
HOUSTON – During spring training, Bob Walk was not Dallas Green's idea of an answer to a manager's prayer. In fact, the Phils' manager paid little attention to the gangly right-hander who had just Double A experience to back his shot of making the Phillies.
Walk was dispatched to Oklahoma City until Larry Christenson's elbow surgery left the Phils an arm short. The kid from Van Nuys, Calif., was called up and made Don Knotts look like a model of composure in his first few times out.
But that has changed. All that hasn't changed, in fact, is Walk's loss record. It's still zero. But he has won six, including last night's 4-2 three-hitter over the Houston Astros.
"I feel good up here now you know, comfortable," Walk said after the game. "Now, if something bad happens, I just go after the next hitter and don't let it worry me."
Walk's confidence has zoomed so much that now Green lists the rookie right-hander among his three pitching reliables.
"Despite making a few mistakes, Dick Ruthven pitched well (Tuesday, night). Walk pitched well tonight and you know Steve Carlton's gonna stay there," said Green, ticking off his big three and, in another sense, probably ticking off Randy Lerch and Nino Espinosa by their obvious exclusion.
Lerch, in fact, has already been dropped from the starting rotation, despite the double-header that looms in Atlanta Saturday night, and he could be dropped all the way to Oklahoma City if the circumstances were right.
They probably won't be since Lerch has to agree to be optioned to the minor leagues after three years in the majors, and that won't happen. But Green left no doubt that he would consider that option when Tug McGraw comes off the disabled list today.
"That would be a way out of a jam," said Green of having 12 pitchers and 26 players, one over the limit. "But I'd hate to give up on somebody like that when we know he can win. I don't know what route to take with Randy."
But Green knows he can just keep handing the ball to Bob Walk for "I know he'll keep us in the game." Green liked the way Walk got his act back together after Art Howe cracked a two-run homer in the fourth, narrowing the Phils' lead to 3-2.
"Tonight's game was a perfect example of his composure,'' Green said. "He got a little pooped and gave 'em a two-out chance when he walked Cesar Cedeno. He got behind on Howe and gave up a homer. He could've cracked up but he didn't and we were OK."
"If that (Howe's homer) would've happened when I first came up, I'd have been In trouble," agreed Walk. "Things like that used to bother me. Now I Just say 'to hell with it' and go after the next hitter. I'm feeling good now. I feel like I belong."
Pete Rose, who got the Phils started with a fint-inning double, agreed.
"You like to play behind a pitcher like Walk," Rose said. "He goes after the hitters end keeps you in the game."
Rose gave Walk a pregame needling in the batting cage, criticizing the kid's hitting.
"I told Pete I'd get just as many hits as he did tonight," Walk said with a laugh. "When I hit my double in the second, I just looked over at the dugout and Pete had a big smile. He got another one (in the ninth), but he said we were even because I laid down a sacrifice bunt."
Not only is Walk pitching like a veteran, but he is bunting better than most of the veterans on the club. But for a botched sacrifice-bunt attempt by Del Unser in Tuesday night's game, Ruthven might have been a winner, instead of watching his chances go down in flames in the ninth on a successful Astro bunt.
But that is ancient history now. What counts is that Walk is still winning and his confidence is climbing day by day.
"Our pitching is improving," said Green. I said all along it was gonna be a good staff, but you guys didn't believe me. Rufus, Lefty and Walk have pitched well. If only we could do something with Randy."
Ah, Randy Lerch, the fly in Green's ointment.
"Let's face it," said Green. "We haven't helped Randy much and he hasn't pitched well. But the way he's pitched has given us the chance to use some others and, like Bob Walk, they're people we didn't expect a lot out of this season.
"I hope we can do something with Randy. Getting some innings pitched with success is important. If he could get his confidence back, he'd help us down the stretch."
If you closed your eyes, you might think Green was talking about Bob Walk, not the veteran Lerch.
"It's always a problem In today's baseball," Green said. "Sometimes they just don't want to look in the mirror."
EXTRA INNINGS - Rose, who has hit in eight straight games, leads the National League with 30 doubles… Bake McBride singled Rose home in the first, then scored on Garry Maddox's grounder... Maddox also has hit in eight straight The Astros put J.R. Richard and his "tired arm” on the 21-day disabled list and called up reliever Bert Roberge from Tucson... Carlton, who is 27-9 lifetime against the Astros, faces Joe Niekro in tonight's 7:35 game (Channel 17).