Allentown Morning Call - March 29, 1980
Bird’s performance makes it tough on other Phil relievers
By Jack McCallum, Call Sports Writer
CLEARWATER. Fla. – Over the past year Doug Bird has become, in some respects, a symbol of the Philadelphia Phillies' bullpen – eternally promising but eternally unreliable. And even after a fairly successful spring training for a number of the relievers, that onus remains.
"I think we've been pitching our way out of that so far." said Bird, who retired all three men he faced in one inning of relief in yesterday afternoon's 6-5 loss to Toronto at Jack Russell Stadium. "In fact, we've pitched so well, we've made it tough for each other.”
That is certainly the case. With manager Dallas Green planning to cut five or six players before the Phils leave for Fort Lauderdale on Monday morning, there are still eight right-handed pitchers who could qualify as relievers in camp – Bird, Rawly Eastwick. Lerrin LaGrow, Scott Munninghoff, Dickie Notes. Ron Reed, Burke Suter and Paul Thormodsgard. And that's not even to count Warren Brusstar who – except for continuing, mysterious shoulder injuries – would be THE key to the bullpen.
As of right now. Reed and LaGrow are the only ones with a job locked up; they apparently will share the short relief duty with lefties Tug McGra and Kevin Saucier. Although Noles hasn't been real effective, he will probably stick as a starter until Nino Espinosa's shoulder comes around and Larry Christenson gets back from a leg injury after being hit with a line drive last week. Suter and Thormodsgard, who for several years have kicked around the minor league systems of Boston and Minnesota, respectively, have only outside chances of sticking.
That leaves Bird, along with Eastwick and the young Munninghoff. as strong, but by no means definite, roster possibilities. At best, only two of the three could make it.
"No, Dallas hasn't given me any in-j dication one way or the other," said Bird. puffing on a cigarette in the locker room. "But that's usually how it is in this game. I'm used to it."
Neither, according to Bird, has Green told him in what capacity he intends to use him if he does go north – as a part-time starter, long man or short relief.
"It doesn't make much of a difference as far as I'm concerned," said Bird. "My preparation would be the same down here."
Later, Green said that he "would not use Bird in short relief," presumably because Reed is a definite in that role and 2 LaGrow has shown he can do the job, too.
"He could be the man for the Brusstar spot which begins about the fifth or sixth inning) or in long relief," said Green. "I think he's (Bird) had a good spring. He's throwing his breaking ball a lot better. But I still haven't made any definite decision on him one way or the other.”
Bird came to the Phillies from Kansas City right before spring training ended last year in a trade for Todd Cruz who has since been traded to the California Angels.
Though Bird never developed the reputation of other short relief men he had some outstanding seasons with the Royals for whom he played from 1973 until the trade. He still holds, for example, Kansas City records for most games (292) and saves (58) His .786 winning percentage after an 11-4 season in 1977 was tops among American League relievers and, as a rookie, he had 20 saves and a 2.99 ERA.
"People didn't realize how tough it was for me to come over when I did," said Bird. "I had no idea what to expect. It is tougher over here, I know that. For one thing, you don't have two weaker expansion teams (Toronto and Seattle) over here. And you just don't have the Parkers and Stargells and Simmonses over there day after day."
Thus, Bird had a mediocre season which wasn't helped by a 21-day stay on the disabled list for arm problems which he says are over now. He finished with a 2-0 record but his ERA was 5.16.
"People want to know what happened when I came over from Kansas City," said Bird, "and I say that nothing really happened. Here I just wasn't being used in the same situations as I was over there where I was the guy they used with the game on the line. Last year I got into only two games when we were ahead.
"I'll pitch in any kind of situation they want me. But, for myself, I think I'm most comfortable in short relief. If they feel they're set there, fine, I'll do something else.
"If I don't stick here, I know I'll pitch for somebody this season. I think I'd rather stay over here in the National League) because I like the parks and the cities a little better.
"Hell, in this business, you don't expect to stay in one place for seven years like I did with the Kansas City organization. But if I had my choice I'd have to say I hope they don't trade me now because this club is going to win."
Perhaps Bird has one strong thing in his favor. He made his only start last season on August 31 in Atlanta and went the route in a 6-2 victory. That also happened to be Dallas Green's first game as manager after Danny Ozark was fired.
NOTES – For the third straight day, it was bombs away on a Phillies' starter. This time the victim was Randy Lerch who hung around for six innings and gave up 11 hits for six runs, two of them unearned. Lerch and Green are currently fighting a battle of wills. Green wants Lerch to be about 75-25 in favor of the fastball and Lerch wants to use his breaking ball more often.
"I think he has enough to get by mostly on fastballs but he has another idea on it," said Green. "Randy Lerch is never going to be a Steve Carlton-type pitcher with his slider and everything else. But I'm willing to let him work it out down here…
Keith Moreland has been having more than a little trouble behind the plate, particularly on his throws. At the same time, he is hitting .394 after going 3-for-4 yesterday.
"He fits my bill as a second catcher," answered Green when asked if Moreland's defensive liabilities were compensated for by his bat. "I won't hesitate to use him early in the game in pinch-hitting situ- ations. The way he's swinging, he's got to help us…”
The Second Position in the'Batting Order, Chapter 14 – "I'm thinking about Bake (McBride) there but I haven't made a decision. Let's face it, the way Manny (Trillo) is swinging the bat (.165) it's going to be tough to even bat him seventh…”
Dickie Noles starts against the Yankees' Luis Tiant this afternoon at Jack Russell Stadium.