Allentown Morning Call - March 26, 1980

It’s neither different nor surprising but Pete Rose never slows down


By Jack McCallum, Call Sports Writer


CLEARWATER, Fla. Spring training is the time to look for the unexpected. The veteran who has slowed down a step, perhaps, or the rookie who has picked up a slider that could make him a 20-game rookie. 


But there are some things that are neither newsworthy, nor different, nor surprising that must be reported. Pete Rose is such a thing.


To fully understand what America's most recognizable pugface is still doing three weeks short of his 39th birthday, we need look only at Rose's third at-bat in yesterday's 6-3 victory over the Baltimore Orioles at Jack Russell Stadium. 


He had already singled and came around to score on Greg Luzinski's double in the first inning, then singled again in the third inning. On that first at-bat. he had taken an inside curveball from Dennis Martinez into the hole between first and second. 


Now, with Del Unseron second after a double, Dave Ford had him in an 0-2 hole. Rose took a ball, then fouled off a pitch. He took another ball to make it 2-2 then fouled off two more good pitches by Ford. They call that spoiling. Then Ford came in with a very good fastball on the outside part of the plate and Rose stepped that way and sent it on a line for a single to left. It was a clinic on hitting. 


But that wasn't all. After an out, Mike Schmidt sent a medium-long fly-ball to center. Rose tagged up and, chugging down a basepath slowed by rain, did the familiar belly-flop to safely reach second. Then, he tagged up again on another flyball to right. Somehow, he gauged that the throw from Mark Corey was way off-line and he rounded third without sliding and headed for home, beating the throw from Doug DeCinces. 


Rose is now 10-for-26 (.385) and several of those outs have been of the line-drive variety. He is hitting the ball to all fields, in all gaps, at all times. And, though he is no Keith Hernandez, he is also a more than competent first baseman, which is almost a footnote the way he is playing offense.


A couple of reporters gathered around Rose after his performance but the interviews did not go easily. No one had any new questions to ask and Rose had no new answers. The message was simple: What we just saw was a typical day in the life of Peter Edward Rose. 


NOTES; Manager Dallas Green was more than pleased with the pitching he got yesterday. 


Dickie Noles got off to a rough start but came on strong in his four innings of work. 


He gave up a double to Al Bumbry and a home run to Ken Singleton in the first inning but that can happen to anybody. But he gave up only one more run and two more hits in his final three innings. 


Some observers feel Noles will be sent down but the smart money says he'll stick, if only because of the promise he showed last year when he was brought up from Oklahoma City in July. 


Green was asked if Noles' status depends on the progress, or non-progress, of Nino Espinosa (see related story). 


"I don't think it all hinges on Nino." answered Green. "If he goes out and follows up with another outing like he had today, he could be the hammer I'm looking for to come out of the bullpen." 


The "hammer" is not to be confused with the "bulldog." Lerrin LaGrow, who blew off six straight Oriole batters in the eighth and ninth innings, is now the bulldog for short relief work. La-Grow has now given up zero runs and only one hit in six innings. 


Rawly Eastwick, who is neither hammer nor bulldog to this point, followed Noles to the mound and gave up three hits and no runs in his three innings. 


"He looked like he wanted to get hitters out today and I'm encouraged by that," said Green. "You know, he's not a pitcher who's going to get by on his split-fingered (fastball) all the time. He's got to stay with his other pitches, too, and I think he did that today. 


"He looked a little lethargic at times last year so I'm glad to see him go after hitters…”


Green was also encouraged by the seven innings of work turned in by catcher Bob Boone, the first extended test of his left knee…


The Phillies get their first look at the Mets' team (oh, boy) today at St. Petersburg. Dick Ruthven will start against Juan Berenguer…


Counting both “A” and “B” games, the Phillies are now 9-4.

Bad news from Nino Espinosa


By Jack McCallum, Call Sports Writer


CLEARWATER, Fla. – On a day when there was more good pitching news than normal for the Philadelphia Phillies, there was also a big piece of bad news – Nino Espinosa. 


Not that there is anything conclusive about two innings of work against the New York Mets' 'B' team on a drizzly, gray morning at 10 a.m. But there now is some doubt that Espinosa will be ready to go into the regular rotation when the team heads north on April 8. 


"Let's face it, he didn't throw very well," said manager Dallas Green after Espinosa gave up two hits, a run on a sacrifice fly and two hard-hit outs in his two innings yesterday morning. "If he doesn't come any better, he won't be in the rotation. We won't put him in there unless I'm sure he can be the Nino Espinosa of last year. If he's going to be one of our big winners, he'll have to throw better than he did today." 


Pitching coach Herm Starrette, a man more inclined to diplomacy than Green, said much the same thing. 


"If you're asking me right now if he's ready for opening day, I'd say no," said Starrette, "unless he comes on real, real strong." 


For much of the early part of the season last year, Espinosa was the Phillies' most reliable pitcher. Between April 15 and May 10, he pitched 34⅓ innings without allowing an earned run and he won five of his first six starts. He slowed down a little after that but even in July, when the Phillies had started their swoon, he was 5-1. But the injuries – not his but some of the other starters – forced Espinosa to work every three days on some occasions. He says that caused the shoulder stiffness and tendonitis that eventually led to his leaving for his home in the Dominican Republic before the season ended. 


"It's the first time ever I had to pitch with just three days rest," said Espinosa who still finished 1979 with a 14-12 record and a respectable 3.65 ERA. "I really think that led to my troubles. This is the first time in my career I've ever gone through anything like this." 


Because of the shoulder problems. Green and Starrette have urged Espinosa to change his delivery slightly. Espinosa is what Green calls a "wrist-wrapper;" that is. he wraps his wrist behind him on the down part of his windup, much in the manner of Luis Tiant, and therefore puts extra pressure on his shoulder when he brings the arm up. Green and Starrette want him to bring the ball straight back.


"It's one of the things in pitching which is very, very difficult to break." said Green, "but we think it's important. When he came up with the bad arm we looked for the reasons why and that seemed to tie together. It definitely puts extra stress on his arm. We've used video to show him and I think he'll come around with it." 


Espinosa, however, is less than enthusiastic about the change. 


"I've been throwing the other way for a long, long time," said Espinosa who, before yesterday, had pitched only 15 minutes of batting practice.


"Everybody forgets that I've never had this kind of trouble before. But, look, I'll go along with it. They're (Green and Starrette) older than me and they should know more about it." 


At any rate, Espinosa was far more encouraged than either Green or Starrette after his two innings of work. 


"In the first inning (when he was hit hardest) I let it go hard." said Espinosa who came to the Phillies right before last season for Richie Hebner and minor league second baseman Jose Moreno. "I didn't want to throw any breaking balls so I just stuck with the fastball and change. I figure if I get maybe three more games down here, and I go, like six innings in my last start, I'll be ready. 


"See, my body is in good shape. And that's important. It's easier to get your arm in shape than your body. I think, eventually, everything will be fine." 


Espinosa was asked if four weeks of relative inactivity and wondering if the arm will be all right has been tough mentally. He shook his head yes.


"I've been coming here for nine years and in every one of those years I'd just get right into it. My arm was just automatically okay. But I guess every pitcher goes through something like this sooner or later." 


If Espinosa is not ready to pitch when spring training is over (or when the strike is settled if you're a pessimist), he apparently will still go north. 


"We have no place to leave him down here," said Green. "I don't think we'll DL him (put him on the disabled list). Early in the season it's easier to go with a four-man rotation so that's probably what we'll do." 


If the season started tomorrow. Green's pitching rotation would be Steve Carlton. Randy Lerch, Dick Ruthven and either Dickie Noles or Scott Munninghoff However, Larry Christenson, who was hit near the knee with a line drive on Thursday, should be ready to throw in five days. There is no doubt that Nino Espinosa, and another victim of shoulder trouble, Warren Brusstar,  are the big question marks now.