Wilmington Evening Journal - March 17, 1980

Moreland to be No. 2 catcher


By Hal Bodley, Sports Editor


CLEARWATER, FLA. – Somebody asked Dallas Green what Keith Moreland had to do this spring to make the Phillies' varsity.


Green merely smiled and everybody got the message. Unless something drastic happens, Keith Moreland has already won the back-up catching spot to Bob Boone.


"I think everyone who saw Moreland the last month of the season was impressed," Green said yesterday after the Phils blanked Toronto 4-0. "I'm not trying to put pressure on him, but I believe he's ready."


Green prefers to bring Boone along slowly this spring because of his rehabilitation from knee surgery. That gave Moreland a chance to catch the Grapefruit League opener last Friday afternoon. Although he was hitless in two at-bats, he called a sound game and handled his position well.


"He's going to get a lot of opportunity down here," says Green, who has gone on record preferring to keep just two catchers during the regular season.


"I'm just hoping I'll get a chance to play in the big leagues," the redhead said. "Last September helped me quite a bit. I think I showed I can do some things and I'm just eager to get a chance."


MORELAND, LIKE BOONE, was a third baseman when the Phillies signed him in 1975. Three years ago, they moved him behind the plate in the winter instructional league.


Last summer, the Texan gained All-Star honors in the American Association. Playing under Lee Elia at Oklahoma City, he hit .302 with a career-high 34 doubles, 20 home runs and 109 runs batted in. He struck out just 56 times in 494 at-bats. He also had 21 game-winning RBI.


"He's simply a heck of an offensive player," said Elia, now third-base coach with the Phils. "He was easily the best clutch hitter in the league. And, he came on quite a bit defensively in only his third season as a catcher."


Moreland spent September with the Phils and hit .375 in 14 games. He took over the regular catching duties after Boone was injured.


"Catching with the big club last September was more exciting than I even thought it would be because I was in a tough situation," Moreland said. "Bob Boone was hurt and he's a great player. But you get a chance to play all of a sudden and you don't know what's going to happen.


"I wanted that chance. It's what I had been waiting for for five years in the minors.


"Baseball is a good life. I get excited about going out there all the time. I just like to take batting practice, to sign autographs, laugh and party. I have fun playing. I've probably been accused of not being serious enough. I am serious. I'm ready to play. But beforehand I'm having fun. Life's too short not to have a little fun."


WHEN MORELAND PLAYED baseball at the University of Texas, he was considered the best college hitter in the United States. He also played football for Darrell Royal as a defensive back, but fractured his left wrist his sophomore year and gave up football to concentrate on baseball.


"I had some problems hitting early in my professional career," he said. "I would get so psyched up to face one particular pitcher. He would get me out one time, then I would get so keyed up the next time I couldn't do a thing. You can't take out anger and frustration in baseball the way you can in football."


There was a time when Keith Moreland had a temper to go with his hair color. He would slam helmets, kick water fountains and yell at umpires.


"I guess I matured," he said. "I've learned to control my anger. Maybe that's the reason I have had two pretty good years back to back.


"I like to win at anything. Take golf. I used to make a bad shot, then wrap the club around a tree. Sometimes, it still happens, but not very often. If I think my body can do something and I can't do it, it eats me apart.


"Maybe 10 years from now if somebody asks me what was the turning point of my career, I will say it was the change in my temperament."


And the fact the Phillies gave you a chance in 1980.


"That may be even more important," Keith Moreland said. "Without that, where would I be?"

Bull swinging sweetly again; socks pair in Phils’ shutout


By Hal Bodley, Sports Editor


CLEARWATER, Fla. – There was talk last season that Greg Luzinski was washed up. They were saying that his sweet swing – it was short and quick and pitchers said he was the best two-strike hitter they ever faced – had left him.


They should have seen him yesterday. The Bull did not look like a washed-up ball player. He blasted a couple of two-run homers as the Phillies blanked Toronto 4-0 at Jack Russell Stadium.


A parade of five pitchers, led by night-hander Larry Christenson, limited the hapless Blue Jays to two jingles as the Phils improved their Grapefruit League record to 2-1.


Both Luzinski homers came off Toronto starter Jim Clancy. In the first inning, with two out and Bake McBride on first, the count went 2-2 on the Bull. Clancy came in with a breaking ball, Luzinski waited on it, mashed it with the short stroke and it bounced off a telephone pole in left field.


In the third, McBride singled to right and Luzinski followed, blasting a 1-2 Clancy fastball far over the concrete wall in left.


"Normally, spring games are not that important," said Luzinski, whose batting average skidded to .252 last year. "This year they are because I have worked so hard during the off-season. A game like this is important to me mentally.


"I want to accomplish something even though it's just spring training. When you work at something, you want to see results.


"I felt good today, I felt I was swinging the bat like I did all winter hitting off the tee at Veterans Stadium."


Luzinski was at 233 pounds when the season ended. A strict diet melted that down to 215. In addition, he is wearing regular eyeglasses rather than contacts.


"I really feel better," he said. "I am in the best shape I have been in a long time. Even though I lost all the weight, I don't feel weak. I wanted to see all that work pay off and a game like today's tells me it is."


Manager Dallas Green agrees.


"The Bull's quickness is back," he offered. "He had that short stroke today. How did you like the way he waited on that breaking ball? You could see him go, then hold for an instant. The second one was a fastball in and he looked like the Greg Luzinski of old."


Christenson, making his first start of the spring, gave up both of the Toronto hits, but was never in trouble. He walked one and struck out two during his three innings.


"Christenson looked like he can win a few games for us," commented the manager. Green said he also was impressed with reliever Lerrin LaGrow, who worked the ninth inning.


"He was outstanding," offered Green. "He had great stuff. I am certain he is going to take some of the pressure off Ron Reed and Tug McGraw in the bullpen."


EXTRA POINTS - The Phils learned yesterday morning that the Orioles' Billy Smith has cleared major-league waivers, meaning a deal is still possible... Baltimore wanted pitchers Dan Larson and Bob Speck, infielder Orlando Isales and $50,000 for the utility player... "That was too much," said Player Personnel Director Paul Owens, "but we'll continue to talk with them now that he has cleared waivers"... Pete Rose, who was hitless in his first 18 at-bats last spring, had two singles and was intentionally walked once.