Philadelphia Inquirer - March 15, 1980

Phils lose opener; rookie impresses

 

By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer

 

CLEARWATER, Fla.  It was his first big league training camp and his first big league game.

 

He went to the mound and blitzed through the Detroit Tigers, and every eye in the Phillies organization was watching him.

 

He is glad he did well and everything, and he is happy they liked him. But he is different from the other 21 pitchers in camp. He is the one not feeling the pressure to make it to Philly.

 

He is Scott Munninghoff. and he is not a man in a hurry.

 

"If I don't, make the club. I'd go to Oklahoma City," Munninghoff said yesterday after throwing three impressive innings in the Phillies' 2-1 loss to the Detroit Tigers in their exhibition opener. "That's close enough to Philly for me."

 

He is only 21, but they know and he knows he will get there eventually. Two years ago he went 17-7 in Spartanburg and was chosen in a poll of managers as the Western Carolina League's most outstanding major-league prospect. Last year he skipped a level to Reading and merely tied for the league lead in wins (14-9).

 

Along with Marty Bystrom and Bob Walk, he is one of the farm system's Pitchers Most Likely to Make You Forget Billy Champion. But there are things he has to perfect first, and he knows that better than anybody.

 

"I think my biggest thing is consistency," he said. "I have to be able to get out and do good all the time, not just one time do good and one time do bad."

 

There is also the matter of control. Munninghoff has allowed just 360 hits in 399 minor league innings. But he also has walked 24 more guys than he has struck out (213-189).

 

"If he has a control problem, it sure would have been hard to tell it today," said Keith Moreland, who caught Munninghoff yesterday. "That last inning he pitched, I bet he didn't throw but two balls.

 

"He's going to be a good pitcher. I'd heard he had a good sinker ball, and his ball really moves well. He'll get a lot of ground balls and a lot of strikeouts. If he can just get his curveball over consistently for strikes, he'll really be a good pitcher."

 

Munninghoff followed Steve Carl ton and threw the third, fourth and fifth innings yesterday. He gave up two singles and a run in the third, but that was only because word that the sun was out reached centerfield-er Lonnie Smith just as John Wockenfuss two-out pop-up was heading his-way. Smith covered his head, the ball dropped, and Munninghoff had allowed his first big league run.

 

But after that he threw nothing but strikeouts and ground balls. He fanned three, including the fearsome Steve Kemp, and the other six outs were all on the ground.

 

"I felt great," Munninghoff said. "It was my first outing pitching against big league hitters, you know. And it gives you confidence to go out and do good."

 

It gave Dallas Green a little confidence to see it, too.

 

"He looked good out there," Green said. "He's got that real good sinker, and every once in a while that thing just explodes on you.

 

"If there's one thing I'd say he has to do, it would be to become consistent. He doesn't strike a lot of people out, even though he gets to 0-and-2 enough. I think he has a tendency to use one side of the plate. Because of the way his ball explodes, he's gotten used to just using the ball away. We've got to have him come in a little more."

 

The only thing remarkable about the Munninghoff success story is how unspectacularly it began. He went to Auburn in the summer of 1977 after having been the Phils' No. 1 draft pick and promptly went a glittering 0-5, with a 5.52 earned run average.

 

"The only tough part was going home afterward," Munninghoff said. "You know, everybody would ask me, 'How'd you do?' I'd have to say, 'Well, urn, I was 0-and-5.'"

 

Fortunately for Scott Munninghoff – and the Phillies – it's been all uphill since.

 

 

NOTES: The interleague trade deadline is tonight at midnight, and Paul Owens is still optimistic he can make the Billy Smith deal. Baltimore general manager Hank Peters gave Owens a list of players he would accept, and Owens termed the Orioles' demands "a little high." The Orioles now want three players for Smith – primarily pitching and outfield prospects. Previously, the trade had shaped up as a 2-for-1. "I don't think the holdups are insurmountable if they come down a little bit," Owens said. "But if we can't get together and we don't make it, we might be able to make it later. I think they have waivers on him."... Owens also said three National League teams had inquired about Garry Maddox, and he expects the Dodgers to join the list, too.... The only thing Lonnie Smith did wrong yesterday was let Wockenfuss' pop-up drop, to let in what turned out to be the deciding run. At the plate, he stroked four singles and stole second after the first three. "I was pleased," Green said. "And when he puts his sunglasses on, I'll be doubly pleased. He sure as hell tried to make up for it, though, didn't he? That's the type of offense I expect out of him. That's what he can do for the ballclub."... Greg Luzinski (opposite-field single) knocked in Mike Schmidt (double to right) with the only Phillies run.