Wilmington Morning News - March 24, 1980

Phillies enter final phase with mound corps hurting


By Hal Bodley, Sports Editor


CLEARWATER, Fla. – Nino Espinosa has a sore shoulder. Larry Christenson has a severely bruised left leg. Randy Lerch has stiffness in his shoulder.


Will injuries again cast a dark shadow over the Phillies' pitching staff?


Spring training still has 18 days remaining before the team breaks camp and even though Manager Dallas Green insists you don't need a full corps of starting pitchers the first month of the season, he has to be concerned.


Lerch gave up five runs on seven hits in four innings at St. Petersburg yesterday as St. Louis whipped the Phillies 6-1. The young left-hander, whom Green is counting upon to team with Steve Carlton as the team's 1-2 southpaw punch, has now been ineffective in two of three outings.


"I've had something just behind my shoulder blade," said Lerch. "It's almost like a knot. Seger (trainer Don Seger) says the problem is caused by adhesions."


Lerch, however, does not seem too concerned about his ailment.


"I have always gotten off to a slow start in the spring," he said. "The only exception was the year I had to make the ball club. I was ready to pitch in National League games the first week of spring training. And if you remember, I got off to a fine start that season and then had problems."


"I've maintained all along that you reach a low point in the spring," said Green. "It seems to bother the pitchers more than the everyday ball players."


With yesterday's loss, the Phils' Grapefruit League record is 7-4.


The Phils are off today and the open date signals the start of Phase III of Green's spring-training program.


"The first 10 days were devoted to conditioning and fundamentals," said Green. "The second period was the first half of the exhibition games. I played as many people as possible. We got a good look at most of them. Now, we are going to concentrate on getting ready for the National League season."


Green did not seem alarmed by Lerch's performance yesterday.


"I think he got behind on a lot of counts and they waited for his fastball," said Green: "I thought be threw some good breaking pitches and he covered first base extremely well once."


Espinosa has not pitched in anger since last Sept 23 after which he was sent home to the Dominican Republic to rest his tired arm.


Green has ordered him to take it easy this spring. In fact, the right-hander has not even thrown batting practice yet.


"He's getting closer," said Dallas. "He will be pitching before too long."


Christenson was hit on the leg by a line drive in the game against Detroit last Thursday and probably will not be able to resume workouts for a week.


Ken Reitz drove in three runs and Bob Forsch pitched seven strong innings to lead the Cardinals yesterday.


St. Louis touched Lerch for three runs in the second as Reitz drilled a bases-loaded single to center and Garry Templeton singled in the third run. The Cards raised their lead to 5-0 in the third as Bobby Bonds doubled in a run and Roger Freed lined an RBI single to left.


The Phillies got their only run in the sixth when Manny Trillo bounced a bad-hop RBI single to right.


EXTRA POINTS - The Phils made their first squad cut yesterday morning... Sent to Carpenter Field were pitchers Dan Larson, Bob Walk, Carlos Arroyo, Jose Martinez, Marty Bystrom and Jim Wright; catcher Ozzie Virgil; infielders Ramon Aviles and Jay Loviglio and outfielder Orlando Isales... The Phils now have 36 players in camp... The team's annual Pina Colada Open Golf Tournament will be held today at East Lake Woodlands Country Club... Tomorrow, the American League champion Orioles come to town with Dickie Noles pitching against the Birds' Dennis Martinez.