Camden Courier-Post - 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.