Wilmington Morning News - March 17, 1980

Bull back in swing; Phils win


By Hal Bodley, Sports Editor


CLEARWATER, Fla. - There was a time when Greg Luzinski had one of the sweetest swings in baseball. It was short and quick and pitchers said he was the best two-strike hitter they ever faced.


That stroke left Luzinski last season and people were saying he was finished, washed up.


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 right-hander Larry Christenson, limited the hapless Blue Jays to two singles 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 238 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 saij. "I am in the best shape I have been in 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.


"I have to be pleased considering it was the first time out," said the right-hander. "I had good control and that is the important thing this time of the spring.


"Christenson looked like he can win a few games for us," commented the manager. "I would have liked to see him throw more change-ups, but we'll talk to him about that. The first time on the mound everyone has first-game jitters and he was no different today, but I was pleased."


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"... The Phils play Boston today in Winter Haven with Dick Ruthven starting against Mike Torrez... Green plans to let Ruthven go just two innings... Catcher Bob Boone may make his first spring start against Montreal on Wednesday... He is recovering from offseason knee surgery... Green says his1 first squad cut will not take place until after March 21... Pete Rose, who was hitless in his first 18 at-bats last spring, had two singles and was intentionally walked once.