Philadelphia Daily News - February 29, 1980

Medical Bulletins Are Out

 

By Bill Conlin

 

CLEARWATER – Quiet, please. That sound you don't bear in the background is flesh and bone healing.

 

Phillies flesh and bone. Calcium working to build a better collarbone. Scar tissue thickening gradually like ice on a Minnesota lake. Repaired medial collateral ligaments getting a solid grip on a retooled capsulum.

 

Watching athletes heal is on an excitement scale with mail chess matches and Ted Kennedy TV appearances. Stealing a line from the Notre Dame Football highlights network, couldn't we move on to action later in the spring?

 

THE PHILLIES are still in the Repair phase of Dallas Green's Reeepair and Preeepare program. And the manager, whose normal speaking voice is enough to stop traffic on VS. 19, has said loudly and clearly that he doesn't want the literati to spend spring training – or any significant part of it – reminding the convalescents or the reading public of the club's medical misfortunes.

 

Each writer received a fatherly lecture from Green on his arrival here concerning the impropriety of dwelling too much on the rehabilitation of his athletes. Dallas seems particularly sensitive when it comes to right-handed reliever Warren Brusstar, whose absence most of the 1979 season with a shoulder injury was considered by many to be the Phillies' mortal wound. There have been some encouraging signs on the infernal machine trainer Don Seger uses to monitor strength in injured areas that Brusstar may have a chance to pitch this season. You would not, however, want to bet your 13 percent mortgage on it.

 

And Green seems reluctant to have that possibility rumored, discussed, introduced as a ray of hope or as a dominant theme in the stories written here.

 

"You guys would be doing me and the ballclub a big favor this spring if you didn't write a lot of stuff about Brusstar coming back," Green said the other day. "What I don't want to see is a lot of media pressure put on Bru. I don't want him reading that he's a big key to the bullpen.

 

"I DON'T WANT him reading that he's the key to the pitching staffs success or any of that crap. I'll say it right now. I'm not counting on him. If I get him back it will be a super plus. I don't want to put the pressure on him that without him we can't be successful. We don't want him out there overextending himself because he feels like he has to make the staff or get hitters out in exhibitions.

 

"I've gone that sore arm bit and it can be a twitch. I never had a chance to be super like Bru has, but I know the thinking involved."

 

Ah, you can forget the first-week medical bulletins anyway. They are as out of sync with reality as the price of gold. There's not a guy from last year's lengthy injury list you wouldn't write a SI million insurance policy on – as long as it didn't involve him throwing a baseball at high speed, blocking home plate or bouncing off a wall. Larry Christenson, Dick Ruthven and Brusstar show no signs of wincing while – combing their hair. Bob Boone's knee is not quite ready to deflect Dave Parker from home plate, but he's walking better than 175 million Americans.

 

Check back again in about a month, when the pitchers are starting to stretch out to five or six exhibition innings, when the hitters are starting to swing the bats with malice and the runners are starting to go for the jugular.

 

THE REHAB DRILL here is to get the injured players in superb overall shape so they don't blow out a muscle which went soft while an injured arm was in the quick-freeze sleeve. Green's approach is sound in that respect. Nobody ever won a pennant with a Feb. 29 fastball.

 

"These guys coming back don't have to win any exhibition games for me," Dallas said. "We've got a proved group of athletes who don't have to be judged on their performance down here."

 

Except for the rehabs, attendance at the informal daily workouts Billy DeMars has been supervising since early February is optional. But there are so many guys here on their own it almost looks like a full camp. Pete Rose, Manny Trillo and Bake Mc Bride are the only absent regulars.

 

"I like what I've seen of the attitude," Green said. "I think you'll see a change. There's a lot of dedication and determination to get this team back where it belongs. Everybody I've looked at has a flat belly and clear eyes."

 

Paul Owens has been busy negotiating contracts with kids who were at Oklahoma City last year. The Pope reports that traffic in trade talks has been light.

 

He refused, however, to completely close the Sparky Lyle file.

 

"Things seem to be up in the air town there with all the talk about the Rangers up for sale and Brad Corbett getting out of baseball," Owens said from command headquarters in the Holiday Inn last night. "I don't expect to hear from Eddie Robinson until they know what's going to happen."

 

WHAT ABOUT THE Mets, who should start wheeling and dealing now that Frank Cashen has been hired to rescue that foundering franchise from the rocks? Owens says he wasn't aware of Joel Youngblood’s prediction – or devout wish – that he will be in a Phillies or Pirates uniform by opening day.

 

"I didn't hear that," The Pope said, skilfully avoiding any reaction that could be misread as tampering. "I think they want to take a little time for consolidation, give Frank some time to get his feet on the ground. I haven't done a lot of talking to anybody."

 

The best news of all, though, is you can't call them the "overpaid" Phillies anymore.

 

"With the Cardinals signings, I think we're down to about fourth or fifth-highest payroll in the league," Owens said. "The thing I admire about the Cardinals is they gave the big money to their own proved people, not to some guy who played out his option and signed for a helluva lot more than he's worth."