Wilmington Morning News - March 27, 1980
A stronger Schmidt is Phils’ hit
By Hal Bodley, Sports Editor
CLEARWATER, Fla. – In a sense, Mike Schmidt says, the Phillies are going back to the beginning.
"When you have a year like we had in 1979, you have to return to fundamentals," Schmidt said, his face dead serious. "I know that is Dallas Green's approach and it is mine, too."
No offense, Mike, but your beginning in spring training years ago was nothing like what is happening this time.
Schmidt, you see, is on a rampage. Yesterday at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg, the red-haired third baseman blasted two homers and drove in six runs as the Phils held off the New York Mets 9-8.
Schmidt, who is hitting .529 this spring, has now belted four homers and driven in 11 runs in seven Grapefruit League games.
Schmidt's awesome offensive performance enabled the Phils to overcome some so-so pitching by starter Dick Ruthven, who gained the victory despite giving up five runs on eight hits in four innings.
"We al made a lot of fundamental mistakes last year," said Schmidt. "I think the preparation this year has been excellent. Dallas is good for this club because he is stressing fundamentals.
"It's good to go back to the beginning and make improvements in the little areas because when you look back over the season, they no longer seem so little. It could mean a five-game difference just because a guy gets home from second on a single a few more times because he got a good jump. Dallas is teaching us the fundamental means to a successful end."
One of the reasons Schmidt has been swinging so well this spring is because he feels stronger.
"I gained 12 pounds over the winter," he said. "I think at least eight of them came from weightlifting. I'm trying to get a little stronger so that maybe as many as 15 of those fly balls to the warning track make it over the fence. You never hit those just-miss balls well, so I figure with more strength I've got a chance to hit 'em out with sheer strength. What I'm talking about are the long fly balls that are caught."
But even with all those home runs and hits, Schmidt says nothing will help the Phils unless the pitching comes through.
"The science of pitching is the dominant force in the game," he said. "You just watch the standings. The team that has the best earned run average at the end of the season will be in first place. All the teams that were successful last year were among the leaders in that department.
In 1979, the Phillies and their opponents each averaged .266 at the plate, but the ERA was 4.16 compared to the opposition's 3.80.
Although it is too early for Green to be concerned about a poor Ruthven showing, he would have been happier had the right-handed ace of the staff done better. He frequently fell behind in the count, but on two occasions better fielding by Greg Luzinski and Del Unser would have gotten him out of jams. Ruthven walked two and struck out only one. In three outings he has allowed 18 hits and 10 runs for an 8.18 ERA.
"Rufus has some trouble with his control today," said Green. "He was not real sharp. You expect those things at this stage of the spring."
EXTRA POINTS – Ron Reed and Tug McGraw also pitched for the Phils, whose spring record is now 9-4... Lonnie Smith had three of the Phils' 15 hits... Steve Carlton, who has allowed just eight hits and one run in 11 innings so far, will start today against the Chicago White Sox at Jack Russell Stadium... In the morning "B" game rookie standout Scott Munninghoff will work against the Blue Jays... Ruly Carpenter is in Phoenix attending the owners' meetings... Bob Boone, the National League player representative, and Larry Bowa, the Phils' rep, will skip the team's trip to the East Coast next week to attend the crucial Major League Players' Association meetings.