Philadelphia Daily News - July 2, 1980
Espinosa Ready to Pitch
By Thom Greer
MONTREAL – A year ago, Nino Espinosa opened like the second coming of Cy Young. He pitched 34⅓ innings without allowing an earned run over 26 days of April and May. He won five of his first six starts.
By September, shoulder miseries had wiped out his brilliant start and forced him to leave the Phillies before the end of the season to begin treatment for bursitis in his right shoulder.
Espinosa will make his first start of the year Friday against the Cardinals in St. Louis.
"We've done everything we can for Nino," Manager Dallas Green explained shortly after activating the righthander who last year posted a 14-12 record for the Phils. "We got him medicated. We put him on a program. We've seen him pitch (a brief period with the Phils' Spartanburg, SC.. farm team). We're right where we want to be with him.
"All that's left is to get him in a game."
TO MAKE ROOM for Espinosa on the roster. Green and GM Paul Owens placed relief pitcher Tug McGraw on the 21-day disabled list, effective June 26. McGraw has been suffering from tendinitis in the elbow of his pitching arm for about two weeks, which Green said is the result of McGraw's overuse of a sidearm pitch he has been trying to master.
There remains some question about Espinosa's recovery, however. His workouts have indicated a loss of velocity on his pitches. Against the awesome attack of the Cards, that could spell disaster.
Nevertheless, both Green and Owens seemed positive the Dominican Republic native will perform up to par in a game situation.
"He's got enough velocity to win," Green said. "I've seen him win with the stuff he has now.
"He has experienced no pain or other difficulties. That's very encouraging to me. If Tug was not hurt, we probably would not use Nino this weekend."
To make room for Espinosa in the rotation, Green will return righthander Dickie Noles to the bullpen, where he was invaluable before the Phils' pitching woes prompted his use as a starter.
Lerch Extra Special
By Thom Greer
MONTREAL – This season has been a petrifying experience for Randy Lerch. The appearance was that every time he stepped on the mound, the Phillies' oft-explosive offense groaned and fizzled like the family car on a sub-zero morning in January. Lerch has been folded, spindled and mutilated more often than a throwaway IBM computer card.
Take last Thursday. Lerch hung tough for the Phillies through nine innings against the Montreal Expos, only to find himself hanging alone at the end with a 1-0 loss... his 10th loss of the year.
Alas, the coming of July may well have marked the renaissance of Randy Lerch.
"I'm forgetting I'm 2-10." Lerch counseled himself before going into last night's game against the Expos. "I'm going to go out and pitch. It's going be like I'm starting over again, like from the first of the year."
SO RANDY LERCH stepped out in front of 33,761 rabid Expos fans and burned another game off Montreal's Eastern Division lead over the Phillies with a 5-4, extra-inning win that surely made locals wonder if the numbers in his record printed in their program might not be transposed. Tonight. Super Steve Carlton squares off against Steve Rogers to try and move the Phils into a tie for first.
Like a man possessed. Lerch repeatedly stuck his white-hot fastball thigh-high and tight on the Expos' fierce gang of sluggers and frequently shocked them with an explosive slider for 10 grueling innings. Lerrin LaGrow came on to get the save in the 11th inning, but it was Lerch who set about making a prophet out of Manager Dallas Green. No more of this "Steve Carlton and pray for four days of rain." The Phils' pitching is roaring like a lion.
And, shockingly, the Phils remembered to bring their bats to the game for Lerch. No real explosions, not until Keith Moreland crushed his second home run in two nights in the eighth inning.
But the Phillies sent singles flying around Olympic Stadium like fireflies in the night. They had 10 hits before their first run crossed tbe plate. And when the night was done they had buried the Expos under 17 hits.
"I thought, 'Damn, here we go again," when I saw all those hits and no runs," Lerch explained, "but I refused to let it get me down. I thought positively about it because at least we were getting the hits off (Scott) Sanderson." Sanderson, now 7-5, shut out the Phils on two hits last week.
"I'M AT A POINT now where I have a lot of confidence in my breaking stuff," he added. "I've always had confidence in my fastball. But the only reason I wasn't there (the point of confidence he maintains now) before was because I didn't believe in my breaking stuff. The key is getting the breaking stuff over and being aggressive."
The man was the picture of confidence last night. He got himself in a 3-1 hole against Andre Dawson in the first inning, stuck a high fastball into the centerfielder's face and surely tasted blood when Dawson ripped it into the stands in left field. Lerch's confidence, however, never wavered and he was out of the inning two batters later.
Ron LeFlore stole a run in the third with a chink single to right, stealing second, taking third on an error and scoring on sacrifice fly. But Lerch maintained his poise and pitched scoreless baseball the next four innings.
"They're very aggressive, a lot like the Pirates." Lerch said of the Expos, who had beaten the last 15 lefthanders they faced before him. "You've got to get ahead of them and then throw balls. If you throw strikes in the black. they'll kill you. These guys attack the plate."
Moreland insisted that's how Lerch beat the Expos. "He used all his pitches." the rookie catcher explained, "and he used them well. He was throwing well the last time he pitched.
"HIS SLIDER to the lefthanders is probably his best pitch. But Randy is a fastball pitcher and if you try to make him throw the breaking ball, he gets behind the hitters. When he got behind on Dawson. I called for a fastball and just hoped we could keep it in the park."
Green said Lerch's effort, "couldn't have come at a better time because our bullpen is slim, to say the least."
The Phils' relief pitchers are so overworked. Green declined to use a pinch-hitter to open the ninth inning in favor of Lerch. "I had no thought of taking him out," the manager said. "He'd only thrown 108 pitches and I thought he had command of everything. It was his game to win or lose."
"I thought I was out of the game." said Lerch. who had walked off the mound to end the eighth with his head down. "Dallas said, 'You're hitting," and it surprised me. But that didn't pick me up any because what had me up was my confidence. In the 10th inning I was still strong (he erased Rodney Scott, Dawson and Gary Carter in order). And I knew if he (Green) sent me back for the 11th, I'd be strong."
So confident was Lerch, Pete Rose heard him "guarantee" the victory when the Phils came to bat in the 11th.
Greg Gross and Bob Boone, who pinch-hit for Lerch, was at first when Rose came to the plate. "I figured it was up to me since Randy had guaranteed the win," said Rose. "I was the last hope." So Rose promptly slashed his fourth single of the night to left to drive in Gross. LeFlore 's throw to get Gross at the plate never had a chance. And Carter compounded the incredible play by trying to throw Boone out at third. The ball got away from third baseman Larry Parrish, permitting Boone to score the winning run.
Rose cited Lerch's "guarantee" as part of the change in his overall approach to the game. "Randy's attitude is different now." Rose said. "He's more open, more rah-rah in the dugout. It's like he's really starting to feel it."
Randy Lerch says he feels he has found his pitching groove at last. "I'm not going to get overconfident," he said, "but this was a big boost to me and the team. Now, with Carlton pitching tomorrow night, we have a good chance to sweep this series and leave here tied for first place."
PHILUPS: Mike Schmidt was in the lineup for the first time since last Friday when he aggravated a hamstring injury, but left the game after the Phils' seventh. "I felt it (the hamstring) pull when I hit the ground ball in the hole," he said, referring to his RBI single in the Phils' two-run fifth inning. Schmidt, presently leading the majors with 21 home runs and selected to start in the All-Star game for the second straight year, said he would not know how serious the pull was until today... Greg Luzinski's 0-5 last night extended his 0-fer skein to 15... Andre Dawson's stolen base in the sixth inning was the Expos' 21st stolen base against the Phils this season.
Moreland’s Homer Brings Fan $1,025
Keith Moreland is on a hot streak that's paying off not only for the Phillies but also for Daily News readers. Moreland, subbing for slumping catcher Bob Boone lately, last night slammed an eighth-inning home run that helped the Phils beat the Expos, 5-4, and won Thomas F. Duda $1,025.
Duda, of the Northeast, the fourth contestant in less than two weeks to win $1,000-plus in the Daily News Home Run Payoff Contest, immediately named Moreland to replace Steve Carlton as his favorite Phillie.
"I love the Daily News," trumpeted Duda after learning he'd won. He said he'd been a regular entrant as well as a regular fan at the Vet.
Monday, during the nationally televised opener of the series in Montreal, Moreland blasted his first major-league grand slam as the Phils defeated the Expos.
Other winners last night were Charles Lefferts, Tom Machalette, and Morris E. Jackson, all of Philadelphia. Each won four tickets to a Phillies game.
So far the Daily News has paid out $9,755. Today's entry coupon appears on Page 63.
Solving Carlton Mystery
Silent Steve By Stan Hochman
Last of three parts
Tim McCarver says that if you want to know why Steve Carlton is such a terrific pitcher, all you've gotta do is look at the guy.
"He is an awesome physical specimen." said McCarver. "What is he... 6-5 and maybe 220?
"I remember in St. Louis. Red Schoendienst used to call him Tall Boy.' Called him ‘Tall Boy' for two years.
"Not just because of Steve's size, but because Red seriously didn't know his name. Red was one guy that was really helped when they put names on the back of uniforms.
"Anyway. Red said that Steve would be a great pitcher in the major leagues because he shagged well in the outfield. Not only did he go after balls... but he caught them.
"LEFTY USED TO shag the way Kevin Saucier shags now. Running into guys, running into walls. Ironic, huh?"
Ironic, yeah. Carlton does not choose to run now. Because running damages your spine... or because he has an awkward gait... or because he exercises to the tune of a vastly different drummer.
Steve Carlton is the ultimate multiple-choice sports hero, with everyone free to choose (a), (b), (c), or none of the above to explain why Carlton does the things he does.
McCarver sees the humor in this. But what about Carlton? Does that talented left arm include a funny bone?
“He's got a good sense of humor." said McCarver. "He's witty. I’ve only gotten one postcard from him in all the years I've known him, but it was funny.
"It was from Jungfrau, which is next to Eigen. in Switzerland. He was on that trip to the French vineyards last year and they had an off day so he took a sidetrip.
"In the spring of 77, see, first night in Clearwater. Lefty and I are going to dinner. "He shows up in a ¾-inch thick sweater. Wool. With three skiers on it.
"I got all over him. I asked him if he wore T-shirts in Aspen?
"So, almost three years later, here comes this postcard. On the front is a picture of a snowcapped mountain.
"ON THE BACK IS this message, 'I finally found a place to wear that ski sweater.' No 'Regards' or "See ya' or 'Having a great time.'"
Carlton was having a great time on that trip. He visited the great chateaux of Bordeaux, armed with a letter of introduction from Michael Mondavi, a gifted winemaker in California.
"I think he enjoys baseball," McCarver said. "But there are things as important to him. Wine is one, his family is another, the martial arts is another."
He has a huge, impressive wine collection stored properly in his home outside St. Louis. He can speak knowingly about residual sugars and brix and the volcanic loam that nurtures the tokay grapes in Hungary.
But, like a lot of oenologists, he can get caught up in snobbish rituals.
Like the time four of us sat down to a very late dinner in Chicago. It was in the hotel dining room, with a waiter so new his uniform and gestures were starched stiff.
Carlton sent the glasses back. Twice. Not the wine, but the glasses.
Granted that the first set looked like Kraft jelly jars. But the second set seemed thin enough and round enough.
Uh uh. Carlton finally got the shape he wanted, swirled the wine, sniffed it, held it up to the light, and finally pronounced it fit to drink. It was an $8 Moselle, as I recall.
"That's Steve," said Joe Hand, the ex-cop who has been Carlton's friend for eight years.
"WE WENT OUT to dinner once and he ordered a very expensive bottle of wine. The guy fills his glass to the brim.
"Steve got on him, not hollering, but speaking sternly. He told the guy you don't pour wine that way. "The manager came over and said to go easy on the guy because he didn't know about pouring wine. And Steve said, 'Well, you shouldn't have $80 bottles of wine on your list if you don't have people who can pour them properly.'
"And, when I think about it, he's right."
Hand is a Canadian Club guy, a two-pack-a-day guy, a chocolate-sundae-for-dessert guy. Ever since his heart attack he omits the maraschino cherry from the sundae.
"I can see how anyone meeting Steve for the first time might not like him," Hand said. "It's the way he tells you things.
"Like the chocolate ice cream. He can give you 33 reasons why chocolate ice cream is bad for you. He may be right, but you'll walk away wondering why he had to come on so strong?
"In Clearwater he'll go to ihe health food store and buy things that are good for my veins. I wish I had a dime for every pack of cigarettes he's taken from me and crumbled into a glass of water.
"Last year, we visited an old ladies home two or three times. Got told about it by a woman we met while he was buying wine.
"SHE DID SOCIAL work and she told him about this old woman who was a fan of his. So, Lefty says, "Let's go see her.'
"Well, it turns out the woman was blind and her family wasn't paying that much attention to her. Lefty brought her a baseball and some pictures.
"I felt uneasy, but Lefty handled it beautifully. And a couple of days later he said, 'Let's stop in and see Mary,' so we went back there."
McCarver, who is doing a piece for Sports Illustrated on Carlton, has seen that side of the iceberg, too.
"I've seen his compassion," McCarver said. "I remember the winter of 73, we're 60 miles off the beaten track in Montana.
"We're snowbound. At some cabins run by people named Tony and Alma. With an old man who must have been 78. An uncle maybe.
"Anyway, their daughter took out an accordion after dinner and started playing polkas.
"Lefty got the old man up and started polkaing with him. This old fellow with tobacco juice dribbling down his chin.
"Lefty saw this lonely, snowbound old man, so he danced with him. I think he's just a genuinely compassionate person.
"One of his turnoffs is the thoughtlessness of people toward other people."
Fine, but how does that jibe with his scorn for hard-working professional sports writers just because he has a beef against one or two?
AND HOW CAN he justify shunning last year's All-Star luncheon, the practice session and the traditional photo with the American League starting pitcher?
"He doesn't like banquets and he doesn't enjoy speaking," said McCarver. "But 1 remember one dinner they conned us into attending in 1969 in St. Louis.
"It was a Kiwanis Club dinner and they honored us. Who knows? Maybe as the best players ot the last live minutes or something.
"But I remember Lefty making a great acceptance speech. He told those people, 'If it weren't for baseball I'd still be throwing (cabana) mats poolside in Miami Beach.'
"It's not that he believes in what Frank Sinatra said, about all the performer owes the fans is a good performance. Steve goes beyond that, but not as far as talking to the press."
And every time Carlton briefly reconsiders his policy, someone like Larry Fields zaps him or we'll run a dumb astrological profile oh him, spelling his name wrong throughout, and predicting disasters in October because Mars is aligned with Venus.
He sighs, shrugs and goes back to playing Gulliver among the Lilliputians.
"Steve has a tough time with ordinary things," said McCarver. "Ordinary things are just not for him.
"He's disappointed if he can't stretch his body and his mind to the limits.
"AND THERE'S nothing uniform about his thinking. If there were, he might then conform to hanging sliders the way other mortals do.
"You just can't generalize about guys and you certainly can't generalize about Lefty.
"The people who count with him are the players, his colleagues. And the people who care about Steve are the people that play with him.
"He hasn't let them down too often."
Pete Rose doesn't know zinfandel from Zen, but he sees Carlton meditate before ballgames, visualizing how he is going to pitch to hitters, and he understands.
He even understands the other side of Carlton, the silent side.
"I'm willing to bet," Rose said, "there isn't another pitcher in the league who can go through what Carlton goes through with Gus (Hoefling).
"He is the strongest pitcher in the league. He swings the bat good. He's got a great pickoff move.
"He don't give in. So, he's in the game physically, mentally and emotionally when he pitches.
"He's not a hollerer or a screamer but he is a rooter. He appreciates a good defensive play. He'll wait for you to tell you when you come off the field.
"And for young players, that's a big lift, getting patted on the back by Carlton.
"When he walks out there, not only he thinks he's gonna win, but the opposing team is wishing it was somebody else out there.
"HE DOESN'T talk to writers, that's OK. I respect it because he's consistent. If a guy is consistent that's all I ask.
"He enjoys the game. I've seen him when he's reached plateaus, he's been happy about it.
"That Sunday game against the Giants, Manny Trillo caught the last out. I asked him for the ball.
"I sent it over to the Giants' clubhouse and asked Willie McCovey to sign it. Then I gave it to Lefty because I thought he'd want it, all the years he pitched against the guy.
"He said, 'Hey, I really appreciate it... that was good thinking on your part.'"
Nice. But there is evidence that Carlton is not much for plateaus and trophies and souvenirs.
"We've got the first Cy Young trophy out near the receptionist's desk," said Ruly Carpenter. "He's just not much on awards."
When he won it the second time he was hunting in Manitoba and unreachable except by Canadian Mountie. Who knows what he's done with that trophy? A doorstop in his custom built home?
"His home is beautiful," said Hand. "Designed just the way he wanted it.
"It's off the main road. And when you turn the only thing you can see is his roof.
"He loves the surroundings though, and he's got lots of glass. But it's glass where he's looking out and nobody can look in.
"I think, in some ways, the house is just like him."