Allentown Morning Call - March 27, 1980

Another good day for Mike Schmidt;  2 HRs and 6 RBI


By Jack McCallum, Call Sports Writer


ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Juan Bautista Berenguer is not the type of guy you like to face in spring training. Even in mid-August, he is likely to be in the midst of a Ryne Duren-like combination of velocity and wildness and, in his five-year pro career, his walks and strikeouts are matched fairly closely. 


All this was of little concern to Mike Schmidt, however, as he stepped in to face the New York Mets' righthander 'yesterday afternoon in the first inning of the Philadelphia Phillies' Grapefruit League game at Al Lang Field.


Berenguer brought in his fastball and Schmidt, as they say around Pressboxville, was "sitting on it." The ball landed in the road some 100 feet beyond the 340-foot sign in left field as Bake McBride (walk) trotted home in front of him. Schmidt later said that it was "as good as I've ever hit any ball in my life," which is saying a little bit. 


Lonnie Smith, who opened the game with a single, had already scored and the Phillies went on to a 9-8 victory. 


But that wasn't all. In the second inning, after both Smith and McBride had singled, Schmidt came up again. Berenguer changed his strategy this time, pitching carefully and falling behind 2-0. He then decided to come in with his changeup. The pitch appeared to fool Schmidt slightly but it nevertheless landed a few feet behind the fence in left for three more RBI. 


The Phillies kept trying to give away the game, particularly Dick Ruthven, so Schmidt came up in the sixth with the bases loaded and sent a sacrifice fly to left to produce a run that the Phillies eventually needed for their ninth victory in 13 outings. 


After his two-hit, six-RBI afternoon, Schmidt is now hitting .480 with four homers, four doubles and 11 RBI and, shucks, it's the spring and he's hardly trying. 


"I've had good springs and had terrible years; I've had horsebleep springs and had good years and I've had good springs and had good years," said Schmidt, just about covering the gamut in a postgame interview. "I really haven't been able to see for myself whether there's a connection between the two (spring training performance and season performance).


"But, yes, the game is always more fun when you're hitting. A slopitch beer game is more fun when you're hitting. That's the way I feel right now. I really like playing for Dallas (Green, the manager) and the way things are going down here. I tend to take things serious, and that's exactly what he's stressing. I suppose it could have some effect on my performance." 


Schmidt was asked if he was doing anything differently at the plate.


"For me, it's all a matter of keeping my hands back. Like on the sacrifice fly, I got a little anxious with my hands. But on the changeup that I hit out, I was fooled just a little but I was able to stay with it because I kept the hands back." 


The Phillies had a good offensive day, banging out 15 hits against Berenguer, Roy Jackson and Ed Glynn. Their first inning is worth description, if only to preview the kind of year it's going to be for the Mets. 


Smith's groundball eluded shortstop Frank Taveras and it was called a hit. Then, when Smith took off on a steal, catcher Ron Hodges threw the ball into center and Smith reached third. Then, the ball four pitch to McBride got by Hodges for a passed ball and Smith scored. Then, Schmidt took Berenguer downtown. Then, Keith Moreland's Texas Leaguer popped into rightfielder Mike Jorgensen's glove and out again. Mercifully, the Mets got a double play on a hard-hit liner by Luis Aguayo.


However, things didn’t go a lot better for Ruthven who worked four innings and gave up five runs on eight hits. He also made no friends among the Mets when he hit Phil Mankowski on the elbow (he had to leave the game but x-rays were negative) and then came very close to beaning Steve Henderson, the next batter. 


It was the second straight poor outing for Ruthven who is trying to come back from elbow surgery. Of the 75 pitches he threw, he got his breaking ball over less than six times. 


"No, he wasn't strong with his location," said Green, using the accepted euphemism for wildness, "but the mound out there's terrible. Believe it or not, we weren't that concerned with his breaking ball because it was moving. He just didn't throw it for strikes.


"Look, he's coming off an operation. It's not like coming down here from a typical offseason. I think Dick's a little too impatient. He's trying to pitch like it's August and it's not even April yet. He's forgetting, and I think everybody's forgetting, that it's going to take time." 


NOTES – Ron Reed looked okay in his two innings of work, giving up one hit and one run, but Tug McGraw was roughed up for two runs and five hits in the final three innings….


The way the pitching is going, Scott Munninghof is still a possibility. He goes this morning in a “B” game against Toronto.