Allentown Morning Call - March 21, 1980

Liner fells Christenson in Phils’ 10-4 romp


By Jack McCallum, Call Sports Writer


LAKELAND, Fla. – For a while yesterday afternoon, this city's Joker Marchant Stadium looked like a graveyard for pitchers. And, even though things turned out not to be quite that bad, a comeback by one Mark Steven Fidrych now appears less and less likely. 


However, the Phillies did survive their first real scare of the spring when Larry Christenson was hit just above and inside the left kneecap by Jason Thompson's ferocious line drive in the fourth inning. 


"The first thing I thought when he went down was, 'Oh, no, that's how our problems started last said general manager Paul Owens, referring to the broken collarbone suffered by Christenson in the offseason.


However, X-rays were negative and Christenson will be able to work out again "in about 5 to 10 days." according to the Phillies' doctor, Phillip Marone. 


The other good news of the day was the Phillies belting the Tigers all over the lot and coming away with a 10-4 victory, their fifth in seven games this spring. 


The news isn't so good for Fidrych and Detroit, however. For the last three years, the Tigers have lived in hope that the Fidrych of 1976 – the Fidrych who won 19 games and had a 2.34 ERA and had 24 complete games and who singlehandedly put the flake back in baseball – would resurface after continuing shoulder troubles limited his success in 1977 through 1979. And the word on Fidrych before yesterday's start is that, physically, everything is fine.


"If he fails now, he's going to fail because he doesn't have it anymore," said Detroit manager Sparky Anderson last week. 


Well, Fidrych should've gotten the idea it wasn't his day when leadoff hitter Pete Rose sent a light beam of a line drive back at him in the first inning. Instinctively, the Bird put his glove up and caught it at eye level more than one pressbox observer immediately thought of the line drive that ended the career of Cleveland sensation Herb Score a few years back. 


Fidrych got by the first inning but began laboring obviously in the second inning when he gave up a three-run double to left center by Rose who was thrown out trying to stretch it into a triple. 


By the third inning it was evident that the off-speed pitch he was throwing on every pitch was actually his fastball or, at the very least, his slider. In the middle of the inning with Fidrych again in trouble, pitching coach Roger Craig ran out to the mound and called for a reliever… even though nobody was even warming up. The Bird was in trouble. 


Typically, he ran off the mound. tossed the ball to reliever John Hiller and tipped his hat to the Lakeland crowd which would elect him mayor tomorrow if he wanted the job. What was wrong? 


While the press waited by the Detroit locker room in right field, another crack of the bat. followed by a crack of the flesh, brought it to life. Christenson took Thompson's liner squarely on the leg, jumped in the air like he was shot and fell down, rolling over three times and, finally, lying almost still while he beat his arm on the ground in pain. 


He was taken off the field in a stretcher while Phillie trainer Don Seger tried to find out where he was hit. Christenson could only moan as he was loaded on a van and taken to nearby Watson Clinic for X-rays.


The ball was hit so hard that its imprint, right down to the seams, was grafted on Christenson's flesh. 


A few minutes later, Fidrych was ready to talk and explained that he had a NEW injury in a "thrust muscle" in his arm. 


"It's got nothing to do with the previous injury," said The Bird. "It just kept getting stiff as the game went on. Duffy Dyer, the catcher came out and told me I was losing all my velocity and I told him he was right.


"Maybe it's nothing. Maybe it's just the arm breaking down for a while because I've been down here working a long time. I guess I'll go back to the drawing board now. I've been there the last three years so it's pretty familiar. 


"The way it bothers me is that I can't get full extension. Maybe it's just a cramp, I don't know. But I'm not going to worry about it." 


But as the writers started to wander away, Fidrych added softly: "I'm just gonna' keep on playing. I can only hope Detroit lets me hang on.”


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NOTES: Christenson was ineffective in the 2⅔ innings he worked before the injury. He allowed five hits and three runs with two walks and no strikeouts. Relievers Carlos Arroyo (3⅓ innings, two hits, no runs) and Lerrin LaGrow (2 innings, one hit, no runs) were also effective but Jose Martinez struggled in his two innings by allowing four hits and a run… 


The day's gallows humor award was shared by Larry Bowa and Dallas Green.


Bowa: "I hate to tell L.C. this, but if he would've let Thompson's ball go. I would've had it. I was playing him perfectly." 


Green: "I don't know what the injury will do to L.C.'s pitching but it's going to knock hell out of his disco." 


Green was asked if Arroyo, a non roster player who has been impressive all spring, has any chance of sticking. 


"Well, he's a lot older than his years (21) because he's always pitched against good competition," said Green. "Nothing bothers him too much so he's a good man to ha ve in there in late -innings. But, probably, the numbers (the Phillies have 22 pitchers in camp) will get him…


Nothing, however, is going to get catcher Keith Moreland. He had a solo home run. a double and a single yesterday to raise his average to .411 (7-for-17)...


Nino Espinosa continues to come back slowly from shoulder problems. Yesterday he threw batting practice to the players who stayed behind to work out at Clearwater, his first live work since training began. Now if anyone could figure out what was going on with Warren Brusstar.