Philadelphia Inquirer - March 29, 1980
Carlton, then who for Phils?
By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer
CLEARWATER, Fla. - Some things about spring training never change. The people who paint the signs in the outfield at Jack Russell Stadium still haven't perfected the art of spelling "Clearwater." (It has been the Bank of "Cleawater" for two straight years now.)
Kenny Bush, the Phillies' not-al-ways-unflappable clubhouse manager, continues to pick up at least 67,000 dirty socks each day.
And, of course, the Phillies' most serious question at the beginning, middle and end of every spring is whether any pitcher besides Steve Carlton can get anybody out.
Dallas Green's official line on almost everything this spring has been that it's "too early" to worry, not worry or evaluate virtually anything or anybody.
But maybe it isn't too early. The Phillies' prospective starting rotation at this point of training camp is certainly nothing at the moment that will cause the '66 Orioles to get jittery.
Calling the roll
Let's start with the non-healthy members, Nino Espinosa and Larry Christenson:
Espinosa has worked exactly two innings all spring because of a stiff shoulder that the entire organization continues to insist is not serious. However, if it's not serious, why did Espinosa begin another six-day period of total rest yesterday?
Paul Owens is at least conceding now that Espinosa probably will start the season on the disabled list. But Dallas Green insists that "I'm not going to pitch him until he can throw like Nino Espinosa can throw." And just when, if ever, that will happen is something nobody can say.
The outlook on Christenson is a little better. He threw a bit Thursday for the first time since he used his knee to knock down a line drive nine days ago. And Green says he hopes Christenson can pitch this weekend against some minor leaguers.
But Christenson now has just 10 days to get ready before the Phillies break camp. And the longest he has pitched since last August is three innings.
OK, moving on to the guys who have actually been pitching:
Only Carlton has looked in Opening-Day form at any time. And he has looked that way almost all of the time.
He allowed only one run in his first 11 innings before being ripped for three by the White Sox Thursday, and he is generally conceded to be having perhaps his finest spring ever.
But Dick Ruthven has allowed 10 runs in 11 innings (8.18 ERA) and has not been sharp. And Randy Lerch was hammered (6 innings, 11 hits, 6 runs, 3 unearned) in a 6-5 loss to Toronto yesterday, making it the third time in four starts he has looked like something less than Walter Johnson reincarnate.
Even given the fact that hardly anybody is either as good, or as bad, as they look in spring training, isn't it still about time the pitchers began getting some people out?
"Yes, we're getting to that point," Green said. "I would say, within another start, they should start getting a little more consistent in what they're doing.
"I think they, in their minds, should have gotten over any arm problems they might have had by now. They should have gotten all the soreness out, all the stiffness out. They should start now working with the way they're going to pitch during the season."
Green again maintained that he is not worried about Lerch. However, it does not take intensive probing from the House Ways and Means Committee to get Green to admit he does not agree with Lerch's continuing breaking-ball experiments.
"I think he's got good enough stuff pitching with the fastball, regardless of what kind of breaking ball he has," the manager said. "He'll throw two very good fastballs and one very bad fastball. If we can get him throwing three very good fastballs, he'll be a very good pitcher.
"I would rather see him work on the fastball first and get where he can handle it in any given situation. The breaking ball is a field pitch. It will come. Randy Lerch is not going to be a breaking ball pitcher like Lefty (Carlton).... I disagree (with his preoccupation with the breaking-pitch experiment). But I'm just letting him grade himself right now."
It may be too early to get panicky, all right. But it is never too early to at least start wondering when it slops getting too early.
Bob Boone has reconsidered his optimistic remarks about the possible effects of an impartial mediator on the proposed players' strike.
Boone, the National League players representative, said he still would take his chances on a arbitrator deciding in the players' favor. But he now calls the owners' decision to call in a mediator at this late date "an obvious ploy to make sure we start the season."
"I can guarantee," Boone said. "that the first thing he (the mediator) is going to say after the meeting Sunday is, 'OK, we need more time. We need at least two weeks.' That would be two more weeks for us without a legitimate proposal."
Boone said he didn't know how a plea from the mediator for more time would affect the players association when it meets to set a strike date April 1.
"Well, I think I know," he admitted later. "But I'm not saying."
NOTES: Although the Phillies' starting pitching has been shaky, the bullpen looks surprisingly good. Kevin Saucier threw two excellent scoreless innings, his best showing of the spring. Doug Bird also pitched a hitless inning, and Green said Bird "has thrown the ball better than at any time I remember last year." But Green said, "I don't know where he'll fit yet. It's (ta-taaaaaah!) too early."... Keith Moreland (spring average 402) drilled two singles and a double. Bake McBride, batting in the No. 2 spot again, slashed a double and a triple.... Paul Owens talked again yesterday with Garry Maddox's agent, Jerry Kapstein. It is believed they are seeking a compromise on money through incentive clauses.... Yankees are in for a TV game today (Dickie Noles vs. Luis Tiant).
The Yanks are coming
Television viewers will get their first look at the 1980 Phillies today as the New York Yankees, with new manager Dick Howser and his big howitzer, Reggie Jackson, roll into Clearwater this afternoon to do battle with Dallas Green's Phils (Channel 17, 1:30).
The Phils, who have been playing close to .700 ball, and the Yankees, hovering around .500, could be giving fans a sneak preview of the 1980 World Series.
It will also give television viewers here a chance to see the red-hot Mike Schmidt, who is having his best spring since joining the Phils.
PHILLIES vs. New York Yankees at Clearwater, Fla. (TV-Ch. 17; Radio- KYW-1060, 1:30 p.m.)