Philadelphia Inquirer - March 22, 1980

For Wright, it’s still a struggle

 

By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer

 

DUNEDIN, Fla. - It's hard to look at him and not think about what might have been.

 

A year ago yesterday, Jim Wright was about as sure a bet to be a 1979 Phillie as Pete Rose. As long as his arm was sound enough to brush his teeth, scratch his forehead and throw an occasional baseball 60 feet. 6 inches, he had this team made.

 

But now you watch him throw those three-quarter-speed fastballs, struggle to nail down some kind of rhythm, labor to get through two innings, and you can only wonder where this will all lead him.

 

It was a year ago yesterday that Jim Wright threw the pitch that broke his arm. The memory, even the sound of it, still echoes around his brain. Yesterday was a day that echo came back. On the date of a very eerie anniversary, he was scheduled to pitch again.

 

"I couldn't help but think about it last night," Wright said after working two labored innings in an exhibition game against Toronto. "I don't much any more, but I did a lot those first couple months alter I broke it. I could still hear that snap, that pop.

 

"I knew it was broke right away. It was like breaking a stick. It snapped like a twig. It had been hurting me the whole game. It hurt so bad I could hardly even wind up. But it was a total surprise. I never expected it to break. I expected the pain to be great, but you never figure you can throw a pitch and break it.

 

"I watched the film of when it happened. That was really the hardest part. I'm just glad we never could get it in slow motion."

 

A lot of people thought Jim Wright would never pitch again after that. But he is out there again now, trying to get it back. And it is clear it will take a lot of pitches.

 

The guy who was 14-7, 13-5 and 14-6 in three straight minor league seasons is inside him someplace. But that guy has hardly pitched since 1977. What this new Jim Wright needs to do most is simply to throw a whole lot of baseballs.

 

"I'm just going out there to work," Wright said. "I'm not out to dazzle anyone. (Manager) Dallas (Green) and everybody have taken a lot of pressure off me. They've said not to worry about how I do, just go out and get some work in. That makes it a lot easier."

 

They were bringing him along slowly at first. But he worked a couple of innings in an intrasquad game, popped the ball hard and almost convinced himself this comeback would be easier than he'd figured.

 

Since then, though, you could see his fastball slow down like a train approaching a station. He eased. through a scoreless inning Monday against Boston. But yesterday, he hung a first-inning slider to John Mayberry, and Mayberry clanked it over the wall in right for a two-run homer. There was no more scoring after that. But Jim Wright, by his own admission, had nothing.

 

"I haven't been able to throw hard in about 12 days," he said.'Tm going through a lull now where my arm's really tight. It's normal, but it's just going to take time to come around. I haven't thrown in a good year, and I haven't cut loose – healthy, without feeling pain – in at least two years. So right now I'm throwing maybe 80 or 85 percent."

 

There was a time a couple of weeks ago when he had even spoken hopefully of making the club. But now, he says, he wants only to get through a whole year and be healthy. He has gone through a spring without pain, but he still is not convinced.

 

"I'm not going to be totally optimistic," he said. "It's going to take a while until I have that feeling I'm 100 percent back. It's going to take innings. It's going to take time."

 

 

NOTES: Larry Christenson was "awful sore" yesterday, said trainer Don Seger, but had a minimum of swelling. Seger is encouraged.... The Phillies split their squad yesterday, sending half to Sarasota for a game with the White Sox and the other half to Dunedin to play the Blue Jays. It cost them against Toronto. They ran out of pitchers and had to send in Jesus Hernaiz, a minor league pitching coach, to protect a 5-4 lead in the 11th inning. Hernaiz promptly threw a two-run homer to J. J. Cannon, and Toronto won, 6-5…. Bob Boone caught five innings against the Blue Jays, his most yet, and threw out a runner trying to steal…. Rawly Eastwick threw three especially impressive innings (one hit, four strikeouts) Luis Aguayo doubled twice, and Lonnie Smith had two RBI with two singles and a sacrifice fly…. At Sarasota, Mike Anderson drove in two runs in a five-run, eighth-inning rally that led the Phils to an 11-7 win over the White Sox. Keith Moreland homered, Kevin Saucier got the win.

Talks with Maddox get fresh start

 

By Frank Dolson, Inquirer Sports Editor

 

CLEARWATER, Fla. – Contract talks between the Phillies and their Gold Glove centerfielder, Garry Maddox, seemingly at a dead end 2½ weeks ago, have been reopened.

 

Phillies owner Ruly Carpenter and Maddox' agent, Jerry Kapstein, spoke over the phone for an hour and a half yesterday morning and had what Kapstein termed "a positive discussion." They plan to talk again in two or three days.

 

Credit Carpenter with breathing new life into negotiations that had appeared hopelessly stalemated. Last weekend he approached Maddox near the batting cage at Jack Russell Stadium and let him know that he'd like to renew the talks.

 

"I hadn't talked to him since the negotiations had stopped," Maddox said. "I told him, 'I realize this is an uncomfortable situation.' He said, 'Well, I'd like to talk to you about it. If you're not busy some time I'd like to come by.' I said, 'OK, that's fine.'

 

"Then Wednesday he came up to me in the clubhouse and asked me if that night was OK. I said yes. We set a time. Then he came by."

 

Carpenter and Maddox had a friendly talk at the player's apartment on Belleair Beach. They didn't negotiate. After all, Kapstein was in California. But they did express their feelings.

 

"I kinda explained to him that I was in a position where he had personally told me they were seeking to trade me because we were so far apart," Maddox said. "I told him, 'I'm in a position where I have to worry about getting traded, that I have to worry about it each day, each time' the phone rings, but if I'm not traded I have to concentrate on giving 100 percent while I'm here.' I said, 'If I have to negotiate a contract while I'm doing this it'll take away from my performance.'"

 

But there's still time before the season starts, and apparently that time will be employed in an effort to reach an agreement. Clearly, the Phillies don't want to lose Maddox now. And just as clearly, Maddox doesn't want to accept a Phillies offer that is substantially below what he could get as a free agent.

 

"Ideally, they'd like to work something out," Maddox said. "They'd like to sign me. No question about that. He (Carpenter) said he wouldn't give me away, that if he couldn't get a deal that was satisfactory I would play out the season here.... He talked about how I'd been a big part of the team since we started winning. He told me if he traded me it would be a business move, nothing else. I really felt that he wants to keep me here. He talked about how far apart we were (about $1.5 million spread over five years). I told him I would have Jerry give him a call and see if we could get something worked out before the season, because I don't want to leave."

 

The most disturbing aspect of the whole affair to Maddox had been published reports – entirely unfounded – that he was asking a million dollars a year.

 

One such report was in a newspaper column written by Phils broadcaster Richie Ashburn. After hearing about the story, Maddox discussed the matter with Ashburn in the clubhouse.

 

"The article said I was seeking a three-year contract for $1 million a year," Maddox said. "He told me he got it from someone in the organization. After putting in those figures, he has me saying that I think I'm worth that kind of money in the open market. I made that quote, but not about $1 million a year.

 

"So Richie came over to me (Wednesday in the clubhouse), and he told me that the Phillies' proposal on the table to me right now was $3.9 million for five years. I said, 'Richie, if they have $3.9 million on the table, you go get the contract, bring it to me and I'll sign it.' He said, 'Well, that's what it is. That's where they are.'

 

"'Then you bring me the contract, and you can sign me right here,' I told him again. 'I won't call any agent or anything like that. I'll sign it right now.' He seemed pretty shocked…."

 

Maddox, of course, was rather shocked himself when he heard about the $1 million a-year figure being circulated, apparently by people connected with the club.

 

Maddox said he finally approached a wire service reporter and asked him, "What are the figures that I'm supposed to be asking for?"

 

"He told me the figures he heard were five years, $5 million from somebody in the Phillies organization," Maddox said.

 

It appears those figures being circulated for public consumption are off some $1.5 million. "We're hopeful that we can reach a decision before the season," Kapstein said yesterday. "As of now, we obviously don't have an agreement. We have some differences of opinion."

 

 

But at least they're discussing them.