Camden Courier-Post - March 26, 1980
Espinosa is having an unhappy spring
By Ray W. Kelly of the Courier-Post
CLEARWATER, Fla. – At times it appeared as if he was pushing the ball toward the plate instead of flinging it the way he did for the Phillies last season.
Nino Espinosa was in trouble and he knew it. After months of rest and treatment, the pain in his right shoulder persisted, and it was obvious that he would not be ready when training camp concluded.
The second-biggest winner on the pitching staff in 1979 tried to be optimistic. "I'm improving. The shoulder is feeling a little better," he said softly.
But, there was no conviction in his voice. How could there be after two frustrating innings of pitching in a "B game" against the scrubs of the lowly New York Mets?
"Every year I'd pitch winter ball in the Dominican and then come into camp ready to go," he said with a shake of his head.
"I'd just jump out onto the mound, throw a little bit and I'd be ready for the season. Now, all I feel is bad."
The morning appearance against the Mets was the righthander's first of the spring. Giving up a run in the first inning wasn't encouraging and neither was the second inning in which he got to throw only six pitches to the over-anxious Mets.
Complicating matters was the new pitching motion Espinosa was trying to develop. Hopefully, it would take the strain off his shoulder and keep the tendonitis from getting worse.
Noticing that Nino cocked his throwing arm behind his hip before breaking into the second phase of his pitching motion, Manager Dallas Green and pitching coach Herm Starrette suggested he try a new one-motion delivery.
"They're much older than me and should know more. I'm willing to try it," said Nino. "The thing is, I've been throwing the other way for years."
Thus, in addition to the stiffness in his shoulder, Nino also tried to contend with the awkwardness of the experimental delivery. The results left observers on the sidelines shaking their heads in dismay.
He threw a mediocre fast ball and a cumbersome changeup. Nothing more. To attempt a breaking pitch at this point in time would be risky business, to say the least.
When it was over, he moved to the trainer's room and packed his shoulder in ice. There was little else to do. Maybe the work would loosen up the shoulder.
"This is the first time in my life I've had anything like this," said the man who had come from the Mets in a trade involving Richie Hebner.
The deal looked golden last spring. Nino, his arm in mid-season form as a result of his annual pitching duties in his native country, was far ahead of the hitters when the season began.
He came out of the gate with three April victories and went on to a peak in July when he chalked up five more victories without a single defeat.
At one point, he pitched over 34 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run to cross the plate. This, despite the fact that the Phils' offense never seemed willing to explode when Nino was on the mound. As with the Mets, Nino had to make do with a run or two.
Somewhere along the line, the accumulation of so many innings pitched in winter ball and his ever-increasing workload with the Phillies pushed Nino's shoulder to the point of no return.
With the Phils' pitching staff decimated by injuries, Espinosa was ultimately asked to pitch with only three days rest by Manager Danny Ozark.
"It was the first time in my life I went out there with less than four days rest," he recalled. "But I was going good and I was eager to have the ball.
"I think I underestimated the situation at the time. I think it got to me."
The stubbornly-competitive Espinosa was literally ordered out of the starting rotation at the close of the season. He was tired. All it needed was some rest. Or, that was the thinking.
In December, Nino flew into Philly and tried to pitch for the doctors. He was told to go back home and continue resting the shoulder.
All that rest hasn't solved the problem. The only thing left is to pitch a little and wait... pitch a little and wait.
It is not the happiest of springs for Nino Espinosa.
Phillies see delight about Rose, Noles
By Ray W. Kelly of the Courier-Post
CLEARWATER, Fla. – Pete Rose showed he hasn't changed and righthander Dick Noles showed that he has – both developments delighting the Phils during yesterday's 6-3 victory over the Baltimore Orioles.
Twice during the rain-sprinkled day at Jack Russell Stadium, Rose instigated chaos on the basepaths, prompting the defense of the American League champions to wilt under the pressure and cough up three runs.
"That's why Pete does what he does," said Manager Dallas Green, who had a lot to smile about.
NOLES, THE object of concern since he got here, finally regained the pitching form that made him the "rookie hope" last season. It was just in the nick of time, since righthander Nino Espinosa's ailing shoulder makes the starting rotation questionable.
Catcher Bob Boone worked a surprising seven innings behind the plate in an obvious attempt to accelerate his rebound from knee surgery.
And, yet another strong relief performance from Rawly Eastwick as well as Lerrin LaGrow, gave the bullpen gang a welcome opportunity to gloat.
"IT WAS a full day," said Green. And, it was.
Baltimore's Ken Singleton greeted Noles with a two-run homer before the tall righthander could even get untracked in the first inning. But, when the Phils came to bat, Rose began to cook.
He singled to right and moved to second as Dennis Martinez walked a revitalized Bake McBride. When Greg Luzinski ripped a screaming double into center field, Rose tried to score despite a muddy track. He had to run over Orioles catcher Floyd Rayford to score, but he did it. Head up and hustling, McBride roared home also when the ball trickled away from the catcher.
IN THE second inning, Larry Bowa walked, stole second and scored on Rose's single to to right field. Singles by Mike Schmidt and Luzinski in the third inning set up Garry Maddox' sacrifice fly to make it 4-2.
"Noles got a lot better as the game progressed," said Green. "He's been throwing funny. Not himself. During the long winter he forgot how to do it. but, he threw like he knows how today."
Eastwick, who altered his grip on his new split-fingered fast ball and is mixing his other pitches in nicely, blanked the Orioles on three hits during his three innings of work.
"RAWLY WENT after people today," said Green. "He wanted to get people out. It's a different approach. Eastwick looked lethargic at times last year. A pitcher has to let a batter know he's going after him. That's what Rawly did today."
A dandy, run-saving, shoetop catch of a sinking line drive by Maddox in the fifth inning was a crowd-pleaser. But, it was Rose who brought them to their feet in the seventh.
Del Unser drove a double to the center field wall and scored on Pete's single to center. When McBride skied out to center field, Rose tagged up and did his head-first slide into second base. Schmidt then flied out to center field and again Rose tagged up, never breaking stride and scoring all the way from second base when the Baltimore defense fumbled the relay to the infield.
LaGROW, WHO blanked the Orioles in the final two frames, drew praise from Green, who said, "the guy has bulldog in him."
Rookie infielder Luis Aguayo may get a ticket to the big league if he can chase down a fly ball or two. The youngster, who is hitting .353 this spring, will be taking extra work in the outfield during the next week. If he looks like he can handle some late-inning replacement duty for Luzinski in left field, he might be home free.