Philadelphia Daily News - March 26, 1980
Nino’s Injury Has Phils Stumped
By Bill Conlin
CLEARWATER – Nino Espinosa threw two innings of half-fastballs, or fast balls which were masquerading as changeups.
It was hard for Dallas Green to tell. It was a morning "B" game and the Dominican righthander who went home with shoulder stiffness last September still looks like a shot pitcher six months later.
"The thing you don’t know about a pitcher like Nino," says Dr. Phillip J. Marone. the Phillies" orthopedist, "is how many years he was throwing a baseball hard without proper supervision when he was a young kid."
DR. MARONE refuses to put a label on whatever is bothering Espinosa's shoulder. The Phillies' medical staff still doesn't have a firm diagnosis of Warren Brusstar's shoulder misery, a condition that is 13 months old and counting.
"If somebody told me it was a rotor cuff problem I'd be relieved," Dr. Marone says. "Then at least I'd know what we're dealing with. You have to get inside a shoulder to realize how small the tolerances in there are, what a tightly wound, complex structure it is. It's much more difficult to put a finger on a shoulder injury than it is an elbow injury."
All Green knows as a baseball man is that he was watching a pitcher who is not close to facing big league hitters at the efficiency level needed to have a fighting chance of success. No pitcher in baseball history has made it through a season with nothing but a straight changeup.
"I wasn't too excited with what I saw out there," Green said. "We've tried to change his delivery, tried to make him a little smoother to take some strain off. Unless there's a big turnaround in the way he's throwing he won’t be in our four-man rotation. The only encouragement is that at least he's to the stage where's he's facing live hitters."
Which is like a firing-squad victim being promoted to live ammo.
Green was asked if he plans to leave Espinosa behind if the Phillies break camp on schedule ' April 9. "No," Dallas said. "No matter what, we'll take him with us so he can be supervised by our medical personnel."
THE GLOOMY pitching outlook brightened somewhat during the Phillies' 6-3 regular-game victory over the Baltimore Orioles. Rawly Eastwick was the pitching star with three more scoreless innines and Green had the feeling he was watch ing a young man pitching with enthusiasm and purpose.
The existential righthander, who sometimes comes on like a character from an Albert Camus novel, did not look like a leaf caught in a cosmic wind or a man stranded in a cruel universe and buffeted by forces indifferent to his suffering.
Eastwick spent last season tinkering with a split-fingered fastball. It was a pitch where sometimes he got the hitter and sometimes he, well, got the finger. Pitching coach Herm Starrette has been trying to impress on Rawly that the Bruce Sutter pitch is merely a useful addition to the fastball which once made him Fireman of the Year.
"He was getting too dependent on it," Herm says. "It was almost like he had lost confidence in it. Now we've added a straight changeup to his other two pitches and he's got more of the assortment a reliever needs. You can't just go at 'em with two pitches thrown at almost the same speed."
Rawly went at 'em with all his pitches and scattered three hits, walking none and striking out two. Green was pleased.
"He acted like he wanted to get hitters out," Dallas said. "At times last year I felt he was lethargic."
"ITS BEEN A long road back," Eastwick said. "I felt I had reached the point last season where I had to learn a new pitch. I think I've got it perfected to the point now where I can use it to effectively complement my fastball."
Green even liked a five-inning, three-run performance by Dickie Noles, who if the season opened tomorrow, as they say, would be the Phillies third starter.
"Noles looked more like Dickie Noles," Green said, and in truth he did not resemble Walter Johnson.
The final rays of pitching hope were reflected by short reliever Lerrin LaGrow, who finished up with two perfect innings.
"He's been very interesting down here," Green said. "I never saw him pitch that much in the other league, but what I've seen has been very impressive."
"He'll give right-handed hitters fits," says special scout Hugh Alexander, who helped sell LaGrow to Paul Owens. "He deals just enough from the side to be nasty and he throws a very heavy ball."
Nino Espinosa threw a whiffleball. Rawly Eastwick threw a plain old fastball. Dickie Noles threw however it is the old Dickie Noles was supposed to throw. Lerrin LaGrow threw anvil-heavy sinkers.
Sounds like the old staff is rounding into form. Most of it.
PHILUPS: Pete Rose, who is batting.384 in one of his finer springs, put on a vintage baserunning show while, going 3-for-4... Greg Luzinski lashed a pair of hits and Mike Schmidt stroked a double... Strike talk fills the air. The athletes are fully prepared to hit the bricks, fans, and the owners just might be prepared to let them. And there is talk that the players will demand additional spring-training time in Florida after an agreement is reached.
The Liberty Bell, Philadelphia Phil and Phyllis are no longer in center field, but that doesn't mean there won't be a home run spectacular come opening day.
This season the Phillies will have a 190-ft. by 20-ft. graphic scene depicting the Cathedral and fountain at Logan Circle, the Art Museum, City Hall, Independence Hall, the Ben Franklin Bridge, Society Hill townhouses and other aspects of downtown Philadelphia.
The spectacular, created and designed by David Quigley of Elverson, Pa., will have a blue background with various colors outlining the city features. City Hall and Independence Hall wiil be outlined in lights with an additional 150 strobe lights in fireworks and fountain patterns lighting up whenever a Phils' player hits a home run.