Allentown Morning Call - June 16, 1980

Phils ‘Walk’ past Padres, talk about importance of Lerch


By Jack McCallum, Call Sports Writer


PHILADELPHIA – It was 5 o’clock in the lockerroom. just seven hours before the major league trading deadline. But the spotlight was not on whom the Phillies would be getting but rather on a player they already have. 


"I hate to keep putting pressure on him cause that's what everybody else is doing," said Pete Rose, "but Randy's gotta' be the key. He doesn't have to win 20, he doesn't have to win 18, he might not have to win 15. If he can just give us five games over .500 we'll win this thing." 


Randy Lerch, he of the 2-8 record, surfaced as the main topic of conversation yesterday even though he had no part in the Phillies' 8-5 victory over the San Diego Padres before 36,379 at Veterans Stadium. Rookie Bob Walk got the win, his second without a loss, with three innings of relief help from Lerrin LaGrow as the Phillies' bullpen continued to be one of the strongest in baseball. 


Yesterday was a kind of stop-and-analyze point for the Phils. The victory ended a nine-game homestand, which was successful 6-3 only because of a three-game sweep of the hapless Padres. As the Phils departed for their first West Coast trip (it begins tonight in Los Angeles with Lerch on the mound) they continued to be in the thick of an Eastern Division race that could be the best in baseball. And unless general manager Paul Owens made a deal before midnight that would surprise everyone, the Phillies will go into that race with a starting pitching staff that even the Phillie Phanatic would have to call Iffy. 


Most of the Phillies expressed the party line that they don't necessarily need another starter, not with Pittsburgh and Montreal also having pitching problems. But shortstop Larry Bowa seemed cool to that line. 


"It's up to those guys (the management) if they want to make a trade," said Bowa. "It doesn't matter what I think of a trade. I know this – Lonnie Smith and Keith Moreland (the Phils' main trade bait) have been doing a good job for us and maybe Dallas doesn't feel like giving them up." 


Bowa was asked if the Phils' inability to land a quality starter gives one of the Eastern Division teams a distinct pitching advantage. 


"I think you'd have to say Pittsburgh" said Bowa. "They have more depth than anybody. Whether or not we can outplay them in other ways remains to be seen.”


Then Bowa echoed a familiar theme. 


"The key to our whole season has to be Randy," said Bowa. "With Randy having the problems he's having, I think we're very fortunate to be where we are. We could very easily be eight or nine out. If he can turn it around there's no telling where we can go." 


But there's also no telling where the Phils will go if Lerch doesn't turn it around. Or where they 'll go if Steve Carlton suddenly decides to pitch like human being instead of superhuman. Or where they'll go if the bullpen has a slump, as bullpens are wont to do. 


Walk, for example, is going to need the bullpen all season if he stays in the rotation. His performance yesterday gave cause for hope but he still has a 7.50 ERA and has given up 30 hits in 24 innings despite his 2-0 record. 


"I guess he'll have to be a big guy for us," said manager Dallas Green of Walk, "simply because we don't have anybody else. In spring training we just felt he wasn't ready and we obviously pushed him a little bit to bring him up here. He'll get his lessons up here for better or worse." 


Walk allowed the Padres only one run through five innings before three straight singles in the sixth produced a second run and caused Green to make a change. Kevin Saucier got two outs, before Green went to LaGrow when the Padres sent up right-handed pinch-hitter Dave Winfield. Winfield did not start the game; the poor fellow needed a rest. Winfield singled but LaGrow got out of the inning and did a good job until the ninth when the Padres got two more runs. 


But the game was a foregone conclusion by then. The Phils made timely hits and also scored through San Diego's defensive ineptness. For example, a throwing error by third baseman Tim Flannery and a throwing error by catcher Bill Fahey allowed three runs in the sixth. The Padres are only nine players away from challenging in the West, eight if Winfield can play every day. 


NOTES: The Phils' starting pitcher problems are capsulized by tomorrow night's starting pitcher-Dickie Noles. Green sees Notes as his top short reliever and wants to keep him in the bullpen but he simply has no one else. Carlton will pitch Wednesday night and Dick Ruthven, whose strained shoulder put Noles in the rotation, will probably be ready for San Diego on Thursday or San Francisco on Friday. 


In case you're forgotten about the other starting pitcher s. Larry Christenson Is on the disabled list after surgery and probably won't be back until September, and Nino Espinosa has a shoulder problem that is baffling medical science…


Definitive action, however, has finally been taken on Warren Brusstar, the Phils' other medical mystery. He says his shoulder is fine and he left today for the Phils Class A Peninsula team in the Carolina League to rediscover what pitching to a live batter is like. The Phillies hope, of course, that Brusstar can take Noles' relief spot if Noles is going to be used to strengthen the starting staff…


The Phillies became the third team to go over one million in home attendance with yesterday's crowd. (Los Angeles and California are the others. But the season total of 1,016,753 for 33 dates is still well behind the 1,227,008 of last year.