Camden Courier-Post - February 1980
February 1, 1980
Phillies sign Lerrin LaGrow to 1-year pact
PHILADELPHIA – Free agent relief pitcher Lerrin LaGrow signed a one-year contract with the Phillies yesterday.
LaGrow, 31, pitched for both the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers last season before playing out his option. He was drafted by only the Boston Red Sox in the reentry draft, leaving him totally free to sign with any club.
"He's a pretty good pitcher," said Phillies general manager Paul Owens. "He had a couple of little physical problems last summer, but he came back and had a very good September. I know two other clubs in our league were after him, so I'm tickled that we were able to sign him to a major league contract."
LaGROW BEGAN the season 0-3 in 11 games with the White Sox before they sold him to the Dodgers in early May. Later that month, LaGrow came up with a bone spur on his left heel which he had removed with off-season surgery.
Favoring his heel, LaGrow came down with a sore arm which put him on the disabled list for most of August. LaGrow returned and had an outstanding final-month, 3-0 record, two saves in nine appearances, allowing one earned run. For the season with Los Angeles. lie wound up with a 5-1 record, four saves and a 3.41 ERA for 31 appearances.
HIS BEST years in the majors came with the White Sox. He saved 26 and won seven in 1977, saved 16 and won six the following season.
"He was very impressive in late-inning pressure situations in September," said manager Dallas Green. "We're gambling that he's back in the form he displayed with the White Sox. He could fit in very nicely in the pen and help (Ron) Reed and Tug (McGraw)."
February 7, 1980
Phillies, Expos set Federation contest
PHILADELPHIA – The Philadelphia Phillies will host the Montreal Expos at 2:15 p.m on Saturday, April 12, in the 33rd annual game in support of the Junior Baseball Federation.
Proceeds of the game will benefit the youngsters who play under the auspices of the Police Athletic League, the Department of Recreation, the Fairmount Park Commission and the American Legion.
Tickets may be purchased from any JBF organization or at the headquarters in room 1470 in the Municipal Building.
February 9, 1980
AKRON, Ohio – Phillies star Pete Rose says he's hopeful there won't be a baseball players' strike at the start of the 1980 season.
Rose, appearing as a guest on an Akron radio show, said a majority of the players don't want to strike and are hoping owners won't lock them out of spring training camp even if a new collective bargaining agreement hasn’t been reached.
"A strike or a lockout would hurt us all, players and owners, and would turn the fans on us. We're all in this business together. I hope a settlement can be reached," said Rose.
February 10, 1980
Padres’ swap of Perry could dash Phils’ trade hopes
By Author of the Courier-Post
Within the next five days, the San Diego Padres will no doubt verify that they've traded veteran pitcher Gaylord Perry to the Texas Rangers in exchange for former Philly first baseman Willie Montanez. It's not what the Phillies had hoped to hear.
For despite the recent acquisition of righthanded relief pitcher Lerrin LaGrow, Phils' Genera! Manager Paul Owens has far from given up hope that when the new trading period between the National and American Leagues opens Friday, he'll be able to pull off one of several trades.
Trouble is, not too many clubs have needs as well as excess players that coincide with those of the Phils. When the Padres' deal becomes official, that will take one of those teams off the Phillies' list of places to shop.
The worst of it is that the Perry-Montanez swap could turn out to be the first half of a move that would also see the San Diego club swap yet another pitcher, Bob Owchinko, to the Cleveland Indians for Jerry Mumphrey, who the Padres believe would solve their outfield problems.
Unfortunately, by dealing away Perry and Owchinko the Padres would be removing any chance the Phillies might have of getting lefthander Bob Shirley away from San Diego.
There is a limited number of potentially-available pitchers who could give the Phillies' pitching staff the kind of muscle GM Owens would like to have complementing a team he believes will rebound back into the playoff picture.
Despite some ruffled feelings between the Padres and Phils during baseball's winter meetings in Toronto, it was hoped the needs of the two teams would override emotions and that San Diego would eventually rekindle its interest in outfielders Bake McBride and/or Lonnie Smith.
Apparently, the Padres aren't as anxious to use the Phillies to solve their dilemma as the Phils are to see Shirley working as a starter or relief pitcher (he can do both) at Veterans Stadium.
Where does that leave the Phillies?
Well, sources in Texas insist that Ranger owner Brad Corbet remains determined to get himself a center-fielder. And, despite the fiasco involving reliever Sparky Lyle at the winter meetings, Corbet is telling people he is going to take another shot at the Phillies.
This could be tricky, since the Phils aren't thrilled with the notion that they would swap McBride even-up for Lyle, and have indicated as much. It could be that Owens is counting on Corbet getting anxious enough to settle his $500,000 contract bonus (10 years of post-career TV broadcasting at $50,000 per season) as part of a trade with the Phillies.
There is also the possibility that the Rangers' owner might consider a trade that would send Lyle and a solid portion of the half-million to the Phillies, who would in turn settle the TV package with Lyle before sending Lonnie Smith to Texas.
Smith's speed and bat has got some of the Texas people nibbling at the bait. But, whether they'll buy Lonnie's ability as a defensive player is another matter.
It's a waiting and hoping game for the Phils at this point. If San Diego can't put together its deal with Texas and Cleveland, they may come looking for the Phils.
If the Rangers get itchy to deal for a center fielder, they may be willing to pay the freight for Lyle's ticket to Philly. Which is no small matter because LeGrow, the newest Phillies reliever, represents an insurance policy rather than a bullpen workhorse capable of taking the load off Ron Reed and Tug McGraw.
What would really make Owens' day would be the acquisition of Shirley or Lyle. Which would, in turn, open the door to possible deal with either the Milwaukee Brewers or the Baltimore Orioles.
The Brewers would like to have Reed (who would become expendable) and perhaps another player that would justify them giving the Phils Jim Gantner, a dandy infielder the Phillies would love to add to their bench. He has got the kind of glove and bat that Manager Dallas Green dreams about having in reserve.
There's only one hitch. Milwaukee can't really make a decision on Gantner until it establishes whether Sal Bando or Don Money is healthy enough to go the distance at third base for the Brewers.
If Gantner becomes untouchable, look for the Phils to turn to the Orioles, a team that likes the looks of Lonnie Smith very much and might be persuaded to part with either Billy Smith or Kiko Garcia, both of them infielders capable of adding sock to the Phillies' bench this season.
But for now, it's strictly hurry up and wait.
February 12, 1980
Taylor assigned to teach
PHILADELPHIA – Tony Taylor, a former player and coach for the Phillies, has been assigned as roving infield instructor in the team's minor league organization.
In another appointment yesterday, former coach Paul Carey was named to manage the Bend, Ore., team in the Northwest Rookie League.
As a roving instructor, Taylor will . work with young infielders from the AAA level down to two rookie teams. He also will join the Phillies for the beginning of spring training.
"During the season, he'll be directed to different clubs to work with specific individuals," said Howie Bedell, director of minor leagues for the Phillies. "With his experience, I'm also toying with the idea of having him do some work with, outfielders and maybe even catchers."
Taylor, 44, a native of Cuba, has 20 years experience in the major, leagues. He was a coach for the Phillies during the last three years and coached and managed the Zulia, Venezuela team during the last two Winter League seasons in that country.
Carey, 26, of Scranton, was a catcher In the Phillies system from 1972 to 1975, and a coach in the minor leagues since 1975.
February 20, 1980
Phils name Amaro first base coach
PHILADELPHIA - Rubin Amaro, an 11-year major league veteran and the Phillies' coordinator of Latin American Scouting for the past six years, will be the Phils' first base coach in 1980, announced Manager Dallas Green.
Amaro, 44, will replace Tony Taylor, who recently was named a roving minor league infield instructor for the Phillies.
Amaro joins Billy DeMars, Bobby Wine, Lee Elia and Mike Ryan on the 1980 Phillies coaching staff, along with pitching coach Herm Starrette.
February 21, 1980
New Phillie coaches stress fundamentals
By Ray W. Kelly of the Courier-Post
PHILADELPHIA – Perhaps it's no big deal that the Phillies will open the season with Lee Elia, the organization's top minor league manager, coaching third base at Veterans Stadium and talent scout Ruben Amaro coaching first base.
But then again...
Manager Dallas Green is already on his way to the club's training camp site in Clearwater, Fla., armed with a conditioning program that he believes will not only get his players in shape, but also emphasize solid, fundamental baseball.
This "return to basics" is hardly revolutionary. Teams coming off disappointing seasons embrace such programs all the time. Usually, they don’t last beyond Easter.
That's where Elia and Amaro come into the picture. Both are staunch fundamentalists. Both already have indicated they plan to do more than stand near the baselines relaying signals and looking like so much window dressing.
"A lot of players spend a year or two in the big leagues and suddenly think they know everything," said Amaro. "The truth is, no matter how long you're in the major leagues, or how good you are, there is always something to learn.
"I hope to have some input during the season. I think it's healthy when players believe that there is never enough baseball in anyone's mind. There is a need to learn something new. And you can do it almost every day.
This is not to say that Amaro and Elia's predecessors didn't share the same outlook. Both Billy DeMars, now the club's fulltime batting instructor, and Tony Taylor, who is slated to become a super-coach for the minor leagues, always have gotten high marks for insight and effort.
The fact remains, however, that Taylor and DeMars spent a lot ot seasons relaying instructions from Danny Ozark in the dugout. Instructions that carried less and less weight as respect for Ozark's opinion diminished. Instructions that were ignored on more than a few occasions.
With new people on the foul lines, there will be less chanoe for the players to fall back into that old pattern. With coaches Bobby Wine and DeMars at his side, Green will be insisting on good fundamental baseball (offensively as well as defensively) throughout the season. Elia and Amaro will serve as reminders.
"I'm excited about the season," said Elia, who managed in Oklahoma City last season and has been hailed for his good rapport with players throughout his minor league career.
"Out of the 38 guys on the roster, I've either coached or managed 24 of them. I think I can contribute. And I don't mean just on the field. Which, incidentally is AstroTurf. I've spent a lot of years coaching third (all minor league managers coach third base), but not on that stuff.
"Billy DeMars and I talked about that the other day. Then we went out and played golf and spent most of the time talking about the league… the best defensive arms in the league, things like that."
The Phillies' brass explained that part of the reason for Taylor's reassignment was a league rule dealing with the baseball pension. Tony is fully vested. While Elia, despite years of service, remained two seasons shy of even qualifying and would remain so if Taylor was' retained in the same capacity.
There is more to it than that, however. Admittedly, Elia is a demonstrative man on the coaching lines. His enthusiasm shows. And, extra enthusiasm is another element Green feels the team could use.
What the coaching changes reflect ! more than anything else is a basic alteration in the philosophy of the "big club", which has begun utilizing people throughout the entire organization rather than relying on a small circle of executives.
And, although it's true that injuries were the prime contributor to the team's downfall last season, there is a feeling that the attitude that prevailed during the Ozark era should be changed if the team is to go on to a World Championship.
The Phillies have some pretty fine baseball people ready and willing to give some "input" to that effort. Elia and Amaro are only the tip of the iceberg.
February 26, 1980
Pitching woes concern of Phils’ Green, Owens
By Rusty Pray of the Courier-Post
CLEARWATER, Fla. – Spring training does not officially open until next week, but already it is quite clear which problem is most pressing to the Phillies.
Pitching, by far, is the club's greatest concern. It is why Manager Dallas Green decided to open informal workouts here at the Carpenter Complex yesterday to players coming off injuries and anyone who felt he needed some additional time to prepare for the upcoming season.
And the pitching problem is why General Manager Paul Owens spent the better part of yesterday afternoon on the telephone with officials of other major league teams. Having failed to solve the Phils' pitching need during the Winter Meetings, Owens wants very much to deal for a relief pitcher prior to the March 15 inter-league trading deadline.
INJURIES last season to starters Dick Ruthven and Larry Christenson, reliever Warren Brusstar and, to a lesser extent, prospect Jim Wright, makes this year's training camp seem a little like Iran – nobody really knows what's going to happen.
The Phillies have been put in an either situation for this week's workouts. Either they will have too much pitching, or they won't have enough. If Wright, Ruthven, Christenson and, most importantly, Brusstar prove healthy, the Phillies will have a sudden surplus of pitching that Owens will use as trade material.
"We might find our own answer," said Owens, "We might be hurting, or we'll have two or three pitchers to move."
"IF THE STARTERS are repairing the way our doctors say they are, we'll have numbers," Green said.
On the other hand, if one or more of them fall prey to further arm trouble, the Phils probably are in for much the same fourth-place season they had last year.
"We have," said Owens, "this physical question going into spring training. We're either going to be hurting, or we're going to have great pitching. It's going to be either feast or famine."
If the Phillies are to feast upon National League opposition and regain at least a measure of their former form, they will have to fill the considerable gap created by the injury to Brusstar.
OWENS COULD make a trade. But the possibility of someone of the calibre of, say, Sparky Lyle coming to Philadelphia is slim. "You have a better chance of filling the spot from within unless you can get a guy like Lyle," Owens said. "Pitching is tough. There's not much out there, unless you want to break up your ballclub."
Which is something Owens doesn't want to do. Sure, he was willing to deal leftfielder Greg Luzinski when the San Diego Padres dangled Dave Winfield in front of him, but Owens refuses to part with any of his "name" players unless he is certain of obtaining someone of equal ability.
A second option – one that Green favors – is to move Dickie Noles into the bullpen. Noles, who showed major league heart – if not major league control – in a few starts last season, could well be the answer if he can make the transition from starter to reliever.
OF COURSE, the best solution would be for Brusstar to return completely healthy. The Phils are keeping a low-profile in relation to Brusstar's comeback. Understandably, they don't want the young righthander to feel pressured; to feel the entire organization is depending upon him.
But the fact remains that Brusstar's absence was a major contributor to the Phillies' disappointing season last year. While the Phillies were winning the last two of their three consecutive Eastern Division titles, in 1977 and 1978, Brusstar gave them 160 innings, a 13-5 record and a 2.48 earned run average.
Without him, the Phils last year had no one to work the middle innings, an unheralded but crucial time in ballgames. Thus, late relievers Tug McGraw and Ron Reed were pressed into service too often and for too many innings.
''The other guys didn't pick up the slack," Green said. "Reed and McGraw became inconsistent because we pitched them too often. Innings pitched caught up with Reed and McGraw. It (their inconsistency) wasn't because they're over the hill or anything."
Neither Green nor Owens are counting on Brusstar's return. They are working on the premise that they need a middle man – Owens by phone, Green by experimenting with Notes.
"That way," Owens said with a smile, "if Brusstar does come back, it will be like waking up and finding a $50 bill under your pillow."
PHIL UPS – Larry Bowa, Bud Harrelson and Bob Boone are among the veterans already working out... Pitchers who were on hand yesterday included Brusstar, Ruthven, Christenson, Reed, Rawly Eastwick and Kevin Saucier... Green says Keith Moreland, who played briefly near the end of last year, is his No. 2 catcher behind Boone, which means veteran Dave Rader could find himself sitting out another year.
February 27, 1980
Christenson out to prove a point
By Rusty Pray of the Courier-Post
CLEARWATER, Fla. – Larry Christenson is regarding this spring training with the kind of wariness you would expect to find in an aging veteran or an expendable rookie. Certainly, someone of Christenson's talent, someone of Christenson's experience, should not be treating the routines of spring training as if they were exercises on a tightrope.
But the fact that Christenson, who, by all rights, should be in the prime of his career, is acting like a man out to prove himself tells you something about what he went through last year.
"Things," Christenson said yesterday, "went badly last year."
THAT'S PUTTING it in as few words as possible. What went wrong with Christenson last year was everything. He became nearly terminal victim of Murphy's Law, injuring himself in the most untoward ways.
Last winter, while on a benefit tour, the Phillies righthander fell off a bicycle-and broke bis right collarbone. That was before spring training began. He returned to the Phillies' rotation on May 12 and pitched for less than two months before another bizarre incident put him on the 21-day disabled list. This time, Christenson innocently tried to avoid a brushback pitch and wound up severely pulling a groin muscle.
His season plummeted from there. After going 19-6 in 1977 and a hard-luck 13-14 in 1978, Christenson fell to a 5-10, with a 4.50 earned run average in 106 innings pitched. His wins and innings are career lows, his ERA a career-high.
"WHEN I broke my collarbone 1 was in great shape, so it was a total letdown," he said. "I couldn't do anything for six weeks because I was immobilized in a cast. By the time I got back, I'd had no spring training and I was out of shape."
Christenson seemed only to compound his problems by returning to the team in May. The immense stress he put on his weakened shoulder by pitching contributed to the development of a bone spur, which grew every time he threw.
"It got so that 20-30 times a game the bone spur would go into a muscle or something and there would be sharp pain, especially when I tried to throw a slider," Christenson said.
THE PAIN was sharp enough to affect his follow-through and, before long, the 26-year-old was trying to pitch with a tender elbow as well as a sore shoulder. It is no wonder, then, that Christenson pitched only seven times after July 4 when he sustained the groin pull before undergoing surgery to repair the bone spur Sept. 19.
"I had a tough year last year," he continued. "Sure, they expected more out of me. I expected more out of myself. Everybody expects you to go out and do a great job every time. There are always high expectations... Sometimes, you just can't do it."
Strangely, the Phillies do not seem all that concerned about Christenson. Perhaps that is because they have enough to worry about in watching the progress of other pitchers injured last year such as Dick Ruthven, Jim Wright and Warren Brusstar.
"CHRISTENSON isn't much of a problem," said Phillies trainer Don Seger. "It (the bone spur) was there, but it wasn't a major problem. It was more of a problem of annoyance than pain. It didn't incapacitate him."
Or, maybe the Phillies' seeming lark of concern has more to do with the fact they misjudged the seriousness of the bone spur problem.
"I got that surgery on my own," said Christenson. "They (the Phillies) didn't tell me to. I was taking a chance, but I knew I needed it. I don't think they realized how much it hurt me."
It hardly matters now who thought what back in September. It is, perhaps, enough that Christenson is working with renewed dedication to ensure his health over a 162-game season.
CHRISTENSON began working out on his own, running two miles a day on the beach, here on Feb. 1, a full three weeks prior to the opening of these informal workouts and more than a month before spring training will begin in earnest.
"Larry Christenson. now there's a guy who wants to something constructive," said Manager Dallas Green. "He knows he did not contribute last year won-loss wise because of physical problems."
Christenson's dedication to running is something new. He, among others on the Phillies' pitching staff, did not run during much of the Danny Ozark regime. Christenson still says his reason for not running – an exercise that is to pitchers what batting practice is to hitters – is because of a lower back problem that has plagued him throughout his career.
YET HE is taking full part in Green's daily running program, mixing sprints with distance work during the two-hour sessions.
"At least I'm running, and that's what they want me to do," Christenson said. "I haven't run for three years or so and 1 still have to be careful because of my back. Running still isn't my thing... I'm not equipped for it... It's not good for my lower back."
But Christenson runs with the dedication of an aging veteran or an insecure rookie because he has something to prove.
He has to show the Phillies, the fans and himself that last year was a fluke, that he was victim to an odd assortment of injuries that came under bizarre circumstances.
Indeed, Christenson has to prove that he can live up to expectations, no matter how high.
Carlton joins Phils’ running drills
By Rusty Pray of the Courier-Post
CLEARWATER, FLA. – Speculation had been building all winter. Would Steve Carlton, the silent majority of the Phillies' pitching staff, balk at joining Manger Dallas Green's' ambitious running program? Would Green, in turn, discipline his lefthander? Would Carlton react by leading a spring-training revolt?
The answers were as anitclimatic as the questions were ridiculous. Carlton ran here yesterday with the team's other pitchers. It was simple as that.
"I never thought there would be a problem, with Steve," Green said. "It was you guys (the press). I think Steve's a pretty intelligent guy. He knows what we're doing, where we're going. He's familiar with my programs. He doesn't agree with them all, but he's smart enough to know I'm not out to hurt Steve Carlton."
Carlton, a dedicated non-runner, works hard with his own conditioning program. Under former manager Danny Ozark, Carlton was permitted to go his own way a route that included little more than a few brisk walks between dugout and pitcher's mound during games.
There was, of course, never anything wrong with Carlton's personal fitness program. He was in good enough shape to win 18 games for a club that finished fourth in the National League's Eastern Division last season. But others on the mound staff not as physically fit as Carlton decided that, if he didn't have to run, they didn't have to run.
When Green took over as manager late last season, he decided the next spring training camp – his camp – would include running... for everyone. Thus, the anticipated showdown.
• The trade that would have sent young outfielder Lonnie Smith to the Baltimore Orioles for utility infielder Billy Smith was vetoed by Green. General Manager Paul Owens left the final decision to Green, whose loyalty to the club's minor league prospects kept Smith in a Phillies uniform.
"Paul gave the field people that decision," said Green. "I just feel I can get as much out of Lonnie Smith as anyone. He's our home-grown guy and I think he can become an exciting player."
• The Phillies, who are shopping around for a right-handed pinchhitter as well as a reliever, may use Smith and catcher Keith Moreland off the bench if they do not make a deal. "I think," said Green, "we can do it with our own people."
• All but three of the team s regulars are already in camp, which does not officially open until Tuesday. Outfielder Greg Luzinski is in superb condition. Luzinski last year came under sharp criticism because it was felt he was overweight. The only starters who have not yet reported are first baseman Pete Rose, second baseman Manny Trillo and right fielder Bake McBride.
February 28, 1980
Rawly Eastwick the invisible Phillie
By Rusty Pray of the Courier-Post
CLEARWATER, Fla. – Rawly Eastwick inspected the bicycle he had been riding back and forth everyday between his place nearby and Carpenter Complex. Sure enough, the front tire was flat, making it the first casualty of the Phillies' spring training camp.
"I don't know," he said, perplexed. "I must've picked up a piece of glass somewhere. There's a bicycle repair shop up the road, but I got to get it there.
"Maybe some glue... No, that would never hold."
Repair problems are nothing new to Rawly Eastwick, the Haddonfield native who burst upon the major league baseball scene with the Cincinnati Reds in 1976. He was the best righthanded relief pitcher in the National League then, and seemed destined to remain at the top of his profession for some time to come.
Instead, his career took one turn after another for the worse. Unhappy with the Cincinnati management, Eastwick asked to be traded soon after he'd gone 11-5 with 22 saves and a 2.08 earned run average in Cincy's pennant winning '76 season. He was obliged early in 1977, the Reds banishing him to the St. Louis bullpen.
It was then that Eastwick began fading from the scene. Now, after a brief stay with the New York Yankees and a year and a half of relative idleness with the Phillies, Eastwick is all but invisible.
Yesterday, Eastwick was one of several Phils pitchers to throw from a mound. Hardly anyone noticed. Most eyes were watching the injured players – Dick Ruthven, Warren Brusstar and Jim Wright – throw. It was the first time on a mound for both Ruthven and Wright since their injuries, the second for Brusstar. Naturally, pitching Coach Herm Starrette devoted more than a passing interest in their progress.
All the while, Rawly Eastwick was off in another section of the complex working on a spiit-finger fastball – the pitch he began developing last April and the one that's made Chicago's Bruce Sutter worth $700,000 this season.
"Last year I was still learning the pitch while I was using it (in games)," Eastwick said. "I didn't have any choice. I had to use it because I had to get another pitch."
If nothing else, Eastwick has shown an admirable determination over the past three years. Someone with less forebearance might have given up, packing away his dreams for the day when he could parade them before his grandchildren. If nothing else, Eastwick has shown remarkable self-confidence, refusing to second-guess himself on the moves he made.
"I wanted to leave Cincinnati for a long time," Eastwick said. "Although there was some success there, I didn't like the way they treated the players.
"They made things uncomfortable for you and I didn't like that kind of atmosphere. I wanted to get out, away from the arrogance of (Reds President Bob) Howsam and (Reds Executive Vice President Dick) Wagner."
Eastwick's career began to deflate during the second half of the 1977 season, after the Reds dealt him to St. Louis. "I was a mental case there," he says now.
He managed a league-leading 26 saves that year, but his ERA ballooned to 3.90 and his unhappiness did not change with the Cardinals. At the end of the season, Eastwick perhaps made a mistake when he signed as a free agent with the Yankees, a team already wealthy in relief pitchers. He fell into disuse under Billy Martin, who was in one of his several incarnations as the Yank manager.
The pattern of idleness continued under Danny Ozark after the Phillies acquired Eastwick in June of 1978. Ozark's unvarying policy of going with the "hot arm" kept Ron Reed and Tug McGra w busy, everyone else in the bullpen bored.
"If you don't pitch enough you won't be consistent and that was my problem – consistency," Eastwick was saying. "You begin to think too much and you fall into a depression."
The Phillies pitching situation being as unstable as it is, it would be premature to hazard a guess at their plans for Eastwick. Manager Dallas Greek's announced intention of converting starter Dickie Noles to relief seems to make Eastwick the odd man out.
But it's safe to say the Phillies will use Eastwick as a hedge against the Noles experiment failing, or injury to one of the other relievers. There is, too, an outside chance they'll part with Reed to bolster their bench.
"I don't know if they're going to trade me, use me in long relief or short," said Eastwick. "I probably won't ask because I don't think they know either. They have all those other guys to look at."
Baseball beginning in the hands of owners
By Ray W. Kelly of the Courier-Post
The skinny man with an appetite that can only be described as the "black hole in outer space," stopped shoveling fried rice, shrimp, chicken and steak just long enough to explain the revelation that had come to him during the preceding night.
"I'm asleep," he entoned to both friends and strangers seated around the table at the Benihana of Tokyo Restaurant. "And, I'm dreaming about when I was in the army. A nightmare, that's what it was... Pass the sake.
"Anyway, it dawns on me. Uncle Sam got me good once. He's not going to draft me again. But, what if the army drafts my girl! It's the same thing. Only worse."
Everyone laughed, including National League umpire Eric Gregg, who was already wondering how he could use the guy's story in one of his banquet speeches. Gregg, you see, has been a hot item this winter on the roast beef circuit.
It began when he told a sports dinner in Delaware about the call he made at Veterans Stadium last summer when Keith Moreland of the Phillies ripped a line drive down the left field line against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
To hear the likable native of Philadelphia recount how he lost sight of the ball and then was inspired to rule home run when he saw the lovely ball girl jumping up and down for joy is a classic story.
Word got around and, before long, Gregg was getting invitations from all over the country.
"I love it," he said with a smile. "I told the story in one town and they asked me to stay over and tell it again at another luncheon. Who knows? Maybe I'll become another Nick Colosi (fellow-umpire) and make the Johnny Carson Show."
Gregg may need the night's work if baseball's pessimists are correct in their predictions that the season opener will take place on the picket line rather than the playing field.
"Nah, ho way," said Gregg. "I've talked to a lot of players and all of them tell me there probably won't be a strike. There can’t be. You're talking about big business. Too much money is at stake."
True enough. But, ever since the winter meetings in Toronto, baseball has been filled with rumors that the owners had put together a financial war chest to soften' the impact of an anticipated strike.
With a new agreement with the Players Association on the horizon and the owners being pushed to make even more concessions, many of baseball's lords were of the opinion that it was time to make a stand. Players making big money would be far from staunch in their demands. Who knows? Maybe their association might even crack under the pressure.
For the first time all evening, the smile left Gregg's face.
"If that happens, we're dead," he said. "The umpires have a contract. But, if there aren't any games, we can't work. And, if we don't work, we don't get paid."
There would be work for the umpires during spring training. Which was due in part to the players' negotiating whiz, Marvin Miller, who spent much of the past two months trying to convince the radical athletes that staying away from spring training would be a colossal blunder.
It was the owners who had to be portrayed as the unreasonable villains, not the players waiting eagerly to get into shape for the season. Miller even went so far as to call together a meeting of all the top agents and give them the same message.
So, the die was cast. The players would report. Umpires with crossed fingers would work the games. And the owners?
Funny how things happen. Executives in San Diego are furious with both the Montreal Expos and Yankee organizations for making overtures at Padres' star outfielder Dave Winfield. Charges of tampering have been leveled with the office of the commissioner.
The hiring of Billy Martin by the rebel owner of the Oakland Athletics, Charlee O. Finley, has gone over like a lead balloon in some high circles. Finley is sticking it to the other owners, and anyone doubting that should have tried to purchase a season ticket in Oakland this past winter. It was as if Finley wanted an empty ballpark in 1980.
With each passing day, a solid stand by the owners on any subject seemed less and less probable. And, the only thing they ever seem to agree upon is to disagree. Normality reigns.
February 29, 1980
Phillies’ Vukovich in numbers game
By Rusty Pray of the Courier-Post
CLEARWATER, Fla. – One of the most intriguing games major league baseball teams play during spring training has little to do with hitting, running or throwing. It is the numbers game, the process by which clubs trim their fat Florida rosters to 25 players for the season.
In the case of the Phillies, the numbers game will be played only selectively. Except for the pitchers, most of whom are in one phase or another of post-operative care, most every player knows exactly where he'll be and what task he'll be performing in April.
There are, however, a couple of spots open to anyone with enough initiative to take them. One of the openings is in the infield, where the Phils could use a good-hitting utilityman.
“ENTER” MUCH-TRAVELED John Vuckovich, who could always field, but – until last year – never hit. Vukovich, who has been around as much as Charles Kuralt, will be competing against incumbent Bud Harrelson to play the role of utility infielder when the Phillies' spring training camp opens in earnest Tuesday.
You might think Harrelson, a better hitter add an adequate enough fielder despite his relativeiy-advanced age of 36, would have a discernible edge on Vukovich. After all, Harrelson did rise from the slow-pitch softball fields of Long Island last season to help the Phillies, filling in well for shortstop Larry Bowa and second baseman Manny Trillo.
The situation, however, is not quite that simple. The Phillies, you see, have quietly asked Vukovich to reacquaint himself with the art of catching. Manager Dallas Green does not want to take three catchers north with the team. Thus, if Vukovich's spring hitting shows some authority, the Phils would use Bob Boone, Keith Moreland and, in an emergency, Vukovich behind the plate.
OF COURSE, that leaves Dave Rader, the long-suffering No. 3 catcher of a year ago, out in the cold... the numbers game again.
"In Vuke's situation, I just pointed out to him that it (catching) was one way to increase his value to the club," Green said yesterday. "I'm looking at a two-catcher situation. With Boone's durability, it won't happen often that we will need a third catcher.
"If somebody gets hurt, we can call up one of the minor leaguers in a day. But it would be nice to have someone to use in an emergency, someone who could finish a ballgame."
VUKOVICH, WHO served as a No. 3 catcher in Milwaukee and, briefly, in Cincinnati, is well aware of the opportunity being offered him.
"Catching's nothing strange to me," he said. "I just have to get acclimated again. If catching's what'll put me over the hump, I'll do it.
"I know the ballclub is interested in carrying two catchers. If that's the case, I've got the talent to do it."
The rap on Vukovich, who is 32 years old, has always been his hitting – or lack of it. In his 14 years as a professional, he has spent only limited time in the majors, hitting an anemic .161. But last year he changed his batting stance and got encouraging results. He hit.291 at Oklahoma City, the Phils Triple-A farm club. The average was his highest anywhere - minors or majors – since he hit .308 in 1971 for Eugene.
"I NEVER hit like that before in my life," he smiled. "The change allowed me to stay on the ball longer and eliminated my deficiencies offensively."
The Phils could carry both Harrelson and Vukovich on their 25-man roster, something they did briefly last season. But the prospect of that happening seems unlikely and Vukovich might be asked to spend another season in Oklahoma City.
Vukovich spent the beginning and end of last season there, playing only 10 games in his time with the Phillies. Having long ago run out of options, Vukovich was released and went through a special draft in December. When no other big league club picked him up through the draft, the Phils invited him to camp.
AS A non-roster player, Vukovich knows his chances are less than good of hanging on with the Phils. And, he seems prepared to return to minor league baseball.
"Yes," he said, "I'd go." Vukovich began to explain further, then stopped. "Let's just say I'd go. I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. But my thoughts right now are I'm not going."
Whether it is Vukovich or Harrelson or someone else who ultimately lands with the club will, assuredly, depend upon how the Phillies play their numbers game.
PHIL UPS – Phils have scheduled their first intra-squad game for March 13, a day after they shift the site of training camp from the Carpenter complex to Jack Russell Stadium... Green has included himself and his coaching staff in his running program for pitchers... The Phils will invite Derek Botelho to camp... Botelho was the right-handed minor league pitcher sent to the Cubs along with Barry Foot, Ted Sizemore, Jerry Martin and Henry Mack for Manny Trillo, Greg Gross, and Rader last year... The Cubs recently released Botelho.