Philadelphia Inquirer - March 30, 1980

Green is determined to give ‘his’ kids a shot with Phils

 

By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer

 

CLEARWATER, Fla. – Try something tough. Name the last successful Phillies rookie.

 

Name the last kid who wandered into Veterans Stadium out of Oklahoma City and did not leave with 57,000 people booing him all the way to Tulsa.

 

Let's face it. The recent history of Phillies rookies is truly poignant stuff.

 

There was Rick Bosetti in 1976, a guy whose desire to steal his first big-league base was surpassed only by his ability to get picked off whatever base he was starting from.

 

There was Jim Morrison in 1978, nervously throwing those double-play relays into outer space, dejectedly learning the art of second base from the calm, low-key world of the pennant race.

 

And, of course, there was Lonnie Smith in 1979, careening around right field during the home opener, baseballs bouncing everyplace but where he was waiting for them.

 

Sad tales. And those were the guys who got any shot at all. The majors are crammed with Dane Iorgs and Alan Bannisters, whom the Phillies developed only so they could toil elsewhere.

 

For years the Phillies farm system was a wasteland of hopeless cases, not because it was filled with people who couldn't play, but because it was loaded with disillusioned under-grads with no place to graduate to.

 

"You'd be down there, and it would make you wonder whether you ever were going to get the chance to play with this ball club," said catcher Keith Moreland, one of three guys (Smith and infielder Luis Aguayo are the others) who likely will shatter Phillies tradition and actually make the team this year.

 

"It was discouraging. The only thing you could do was try and get super statistics in the minors. You were forced to. If you had good stats, at least maybe some other club would notice you, and you'd get a chance somewhere."

 

It shouldn't have had to be like that, not in an organization headed by a former farm director (Paul Owens) and an owner (Ruly Carpenter) who had learned the trade by working in player development.

 

But it wasn't the owner and the general manager who were the problem. It was Danny Ozark, a manager who was under constant pressure to win and who was scared to death of trying to do it with kids.

 

"Nothing against Danny," Moreland said. "But Danny just liked experienced big-league ballplayers. That was just the way he was. He liked to win with certain guys."

 

But Ozark is gone now, and with him went the organization's Fear of Rookies Disease. The manager now is Dallas Green, another former farm director who wants nothing more than to have "his" kids make it.

 

Green has shown the young guys he is behind them. And nobody understands what it means to have a manager who has faith in you more than Lonnie Smith. Ozark had more confidence in the Communist Manifesto than he did in Smith. It showed. "I think it's important for every ballplayer coming out of the minor leagues to get some faith and trust in him from someone," Smith said. "If not, all you're going to get is a player who isn't going to respond, who isn't going to be happy and so isn't going to produce to full capacity."

 

Smith was Example A. And his was a typical story for Phillies rookies of the past. But Green is determined that it not be the story of the future. He not only wants to carry guys out of his farm system, he is determined that they be productive.

 

Here is a look at the three rookies he probably will carry this season, and how he will utilize them:

 

•  Lonnie Smith – "If Danny were still around, I think I would be completely out of the picture," Smith said. "I don't think I'd be sitting in this locker room right now."

 

Smith, 24, is a nervous guy, easily given to self-doubt. Ozark questioned his bat, his base-running and his defense. And it unquestionably brought out the worst in a player who has hit .308 and averaged 38 stolen bases in six minor-league seasons.

 

Green is convinced that if there is anything to be gotten out of Lonnie Smith, he will get it. So Smith will pinch-run, spot-start, be the make-contact, right-handed pinch-hitter.

 

"From the day we broke camp last year, I always had the feeling I'd be back in Oklahoma City," Smith said. "It was just a matter of time. I knew I wasn't going to get any time to play. It was just a question of what day I'd get sent out.

 

"This year I expect I'll at least get a little more chance to play. I think if I start a game, I'll at least get to stay in the whole game. And I think Dallas has more confidence in my hitting than Ozark did. Every time I had a bad day, he'd say, 'Go see Billy De-Mars.' It was like I always had to be Pete Rose or something.

 

“This spring I've been a lot more relaxed. I feel I don't have anything to prove to Dallas. He knows what I can do."

 

•  Luis Aguayo – He plays second base. He plays shortstop. He plays third base. Green even has had him working in the outfield. He hasn't played there since he was 13. But Green simply has supreme faith in Luis Aguayo's ability to catch the baseball.

 

"He's got great hands," Green said. "And he really goes after the ball. He's comfortable to see the ball hit to with two outs, that's for sure. He's like Bowa. You know you're gonna get an out."

 

Earlier this spring, Aguayo, 21, was telling people he preferred to go to Triple A and play every day. Now he realizes how close he is to the big leagues. Suddenly, he thinks he could handle a year in Philadelphia, too.

 

"I really don't like to even think about whether I'm going to make it," he said. "I just go out and do my job, try to play good, work hard like always, and if I make the ball club, fine. If they send me out, I can wait."

 

Two years ago, the Phillies fiddled with Aguayo's batting stance, and he hit & mighty .196 in Reading. Last year, they let him go back to his old style, and he batted .273 in Oklahoma City after being in the .290s most of the season.

 

Green seems satisfied with Aguayo's offense and appears set to keep him. And if the manager pinch-hits much for Larry Bowa, we may see a lot of Luis Aguayo.

 

•  Keith Moreland – This is going to sound crazy. But Keith Moreland came to camp worried. Worried he was going back to Triple A.

 

Yeah, this was the same Keith Moreland who hit .302, with 20 homers and 109 RBIs in Triple A last year. Yeah, this was the same Keith Moreland who became the Phillies' starting catcher in September and batted .375, with 8 RBIs in 14 games.

 

"I can't help it," said Keith More-land, 25. "I just never think I've got a team made because I don't know if I've got it made. Even right now. They might get another catcher and send me down. They might get a pitcher from some other club and include me in the deal. How do I know?"

 

 

Well, Moreland may not know It, but he definitely will be around – as the reserve catcher, as the chief righthanded pinch-hitter. You can book it.

He sees locker emptied again

 

By Frank Dolson, Inquirer Sports Editor

 

CLEARWATER, Fla. – The locker in the Phillies' minor league clubhouse is empty now. The clothes have been removed from the wire hangers. The cardboard strip with the name "Botelho" on it has been torn off, crumpled up and thrown away.

 

Hard to believe that a year ago Derek Botelho was one of the most highly regarded young pitchers in any big-league camp, that 13 months ago the Chicago Cubs insisted that he be included in the trade that sent second baseman Manny Trillo to the Phillies, that 14 months ago he was the toast of the hotly competitive winter league in Venezuela, blowing away big-league hitters for Tony Taylor's Zulia Aguilas team in Maracaibo.

 

Taylor has seen a lot of fine, young pitchers; Botelho ranked among the finest, both as a pitcher and as a person. "A super guy," said Tony. "A beautiful kid."

 

A highly successful Double A pitcher in the Phillies farm system in 1978, Botelho was brilliant in the Venezuelan playoffs of 79. "That winter," Taylor said, "he was ready to pitch in the big leagues."

 

Not too tired

 

Taylor's team was down two games to one in the best-of-seven semifinal playoffs. Botelho was tired. "I had started feeling something in my shoulder," he said. "Not an excruciating pain, just a stiffness."

 

But the team was short of pitchers. "I just wanted to win it real bad for Tony," Botelho said. "I couldn't tell Tony I couldn't pitch. I'm not that kind of guy."

 

So Botelho didn't mention the stiffness in his right shoulder. Facing a team that had David Concepcion and Terry Whitfield, he evened the series with, a five-hitter, then came back to pitch a four-hitter in the seventh game.

 

As the game wore on, the emotional crowd of 30,000-plus fell in love with the tall, slender, hard-throwing kid on the mound.

 

"By the seventh, eighth inning," Taylor said, "every time he went to the mound the people (would) go Bo-tel-ho...Bo-tel-ho.

 

Awesome display

 

"It was awesome," Botelho said. "They were just chanting my last name, every pitch practically.... I came in the clubhouse after the game and all of a sudden I hear more chanting. I go outside the dugout and all these people give me a standing ovation; they just go nuts. Then they pick me up on their shoulders and parade me around the stadium.

 

That was barely 14 months ago… and now Derek Botelho's locker is empty. Now the kid who was ready to pitch in the big leagues is on his way home, to Boca Raton, Fla. The pain is still there. He can t throw a baseball so he's going to have exploratory shoulder surgery... and he's going to have to pay the $l,500-to-$2,000 it'll cost out of his own pocket.

 

That's the way it can happen to young pitchers. One day, the fast ball is practically unhittable, the future seemingly unlimited. Then comes the pain.

 

The Phillies, like most clubs, have a long list of case histories. There was a strapping, flame-throwing kid named Dave Downs, who pitched a shutout in his first big-league start He's in the construction business now in Spokane, Wash.

 

Plenty of company

 

There's Warren Brusstar, who was on his way to becoming one of the top; young relief pitchers in the National League two years ago. Now he's looking for a doctor who can eliminate the pain in his right shoulder.

 

The list goes on and on, and now Derek Botelho, the kid who turned them on in Maracaibo the way Mark Fidrych used to turn them on in Detroit, is part of that list.

 

At least when Downs got hurt the Phillies did all in their power to make him healthy again, just as they are doing all they can now for Bruss tar, and for Jim Wright, who went through two years of agony. But unfortunately for Botelho, he was no longer a Phillie when the pain be came so severe he couldn't pitch.

 

The trade to the Cubs had jolted hira. He was excited about going to the Phillies big-league camp last spring. His new car was packed for the trip to Clearwater when the call came.

 

"I can remember the day," Derek said. "It was real gloomy. I'd been running and I came in the door all sweaty, and my mom said, Derek, you just got a call from Dallas Green. It's very important. Something about the Cubs…' sat down on the couch and, oh, man. I knew I was traded. I just knew it."

 

Even when Green called back and assured him that he hadn't been a throw-in, that the Cubs had refused to make the Trillo trade without him, he was shattered. "I mean I was steaming," he said. "I hated it. man. From day one over there, I didn't like it."

 

And things got worse. The pain was back. They gave him a shot of cortisone, and it disappeared for a while, only to return a couple of days before the Cubs were to break camp.

 

Rather than send him north with their Triple A Wichita club, the Cubs sent Botelho to Fort Myers, Fla., to work with their rookie team.

 

He was icing down his shoulder in the clubhouse one day when a coach told him that Bob Kennedy, the Cub general manager, wanted Derek in Wichita as quickly as possible.

 

About 15 minutes later they came busting into the trainer's room," Botelho said. "They go, 'Bo, get your clothes on. You've got a flight in an hour."

 

There wasn't even time to shower. Botelho put on his clothes, threw his stuff in a suitcase and flew to Wichita that night.

 

Next morning he called the Wichita trainer at the ballpark.

 

“What are you doing here?" the trainer asked him. "We didn't hear anything about you being here."

 

The trip had been a waste of time. Not only didn't they seem to know he was coming, but they acted as if they didn’t want mm. “The manager didn’t talk to me for two days,” Botelho said.

 

On top of everything, the shoulder still hurt. In June he got another cortisone shot. In July they sent him home to rest. In late December they flew him to Chicago to see the team doctor, who told him that in his opinion he'd never pitch again. Two weeks alter that the Cubs sent Botelho his release.

 

So the kid who dazzled all those bij4eague hitters and scouts in Venezuela the year before returned to the Phillies minor league camp on a trial basis this spring. No contract. No promises.  Nothing... except that damned pain in his shoulder.

 

“In baseball, I guess in anv sport, it's not what you did before, it's right now that counts,” Botelho said.

 

“I don't know what's going to happen,” he said before going home, "but I can't give up. I'm not going to give up. I’m going to do evervthing in my power to get back, even if I have to do it on my own.”

 

So the super prospect, the kid who dazzled them in Maracaibo is going to fly io East Lansing, Mich., to see a doctor he thinks – he hopes – can do something.

 

 

It'll cost a lot of money, more than he can really afford. But it s something he's got to do. When you can pitch so well that more than 30,000 people start chanting vour name… When you’re that close to making it to the big leagues at 22, it's hard to walk away from an empty locker in a minor league camp a year later.

Sundberg, Boone are 2 catchers who use ‘tools’ with intelligence

 

By Allen Lewis, On Baseball

 

They call them the tools of ignorance, but nothing could be further from the truth. The mask, the chest protector and the shinguards are worn by some of the game's smartest players, and their proficiency is often the difference between a team's winning or losing.

 

Jim Sundberg of the Rangers and Bob Boone of the Phillies are two of the very best catchers in the game as evidenced by the fact that Sundberg has won an American League Gold Glove for defensive proficiency for the last four years, and Boone a National League Gold Glove the last two seasons.

 

Their approach to their job differs slightly. Sundberg says that calling pitches is the toughest part of the game for him. Boone, who had to work harder on the mechanics of caching because he had never played the position until after his second pro season in 1970, says that calling pitches has come easier. But both agree on the importance of pitch selection.

 

“Other things, such as blocking pitches, are like going to the well," SUfidberg said recently. "You have to pump and pump to get the water up the well. But once it's up you only have to pump occasionally.

 

''Once you know how to block a ball or "throw accurately to second base, you only have to work on it once in a while. But calling a game is always hard, always changing. A batter is always adjusting to the pitcher, and the pitcher is always adjusting to the hitter."

 

In contrast, Boone said, "Once you get the mechanics down, there's not too much left. I think it (calling it a game) is something inherent in a lot of guys. A lot of guys have never been able to learn. I think it's something there from the start.

 

"I figure that's one of my strong points. That was one of the easiest things when I made my conversion (from third base). I used to be a pitcher, too, in high school and college (Stanford).

 

"I think that's a real sweeping statement, when you say 'once you get the mechanics down.' For me, when I come to spring training, I work on all the mechanical things I have to do, and feel by the time spring training is over with that I'm ready to go, that I have them all down and can do them all.

 

"That took me a long time to learn, whereas with calling a game it's so different all the time, but it's something you really don't spend a lot of time thinking about. You have to wait for a situation.

 

"It (calling a game) is probably the toughest thing to learn in the minor leagues, because you can learn the mechanics in the minor leagues, but you can't learn the other because when you get to the big leagues it's a whole different ball game. No two ball games are the same.

 

"I just think to call a game is the most artistic. The mechanics can be learned, but calling a game is constantly adjusting to whoever is on the mound. You never really call two games the same."

 

Everyone knows that catching is tough on the legs, but that's not all. Sundberg says he also feels it in the shoulders. "Sometimes," he says, "I grab the bat, and the handle feels swollen. You think somebody has sunk lead in the end of the bat."

 

With all the problems the position presents, it always seemed that, no matter what their salary, catchers were underpaid in relation to their teammates at other positions.

 

 

Answer to last week's Trivia Question: Gene Garber of the Braves lost 16 games last season to set a major league record for defeats by a relief pitcher in one season. The old record was 14 by Darold Knowles in 1970, by John Hiller in 1974 and by Mike Marshall in 197S. First with the correct answer was Joe Hayes Jr., of Norristown.

 

 

Trivia Question of the Week (submitted by Jerry Van Horn of Philadelphia): What is the most runs batted in by two players on the same team, each of whom was playing in his first major league season?

Yankees and Tiant top Phils

 

By the Associated Press

 

CLEARWATER, Fla. – Luis Tiant pitched one-hit ball for five innings yesterday as the New York Yankees beat the Phillies, 3-1, in an exhibition game here.

 

The lone hit off Tiant was an infield single by Bake McBride in the fourth inning. Until then, Tiant had retired 13 straight batters.

 

All three New York runs came off loser Dickie Noles in the sixth. Following a pair of walks to start the inning, Reggie Jackson bounced to Pete Rose, who threw to second for an out.

 

Larry Bowa's return throw to first was wild, allowing Ruppert Jones to score. Jackson moved up to second and advanced to third as Jim Spencer singled. Brad Gulden's single scored Jackson and sent Spencer to third. Spencer scored on a passed ball.

 

McBride's double and an RBI single by Mike Schmidt accounted for the Phillies' lone run.

 

The victory gave the Yankees a 9-8 record. The Phillies are 10-6.

 

 

The Phillies cut four players yesterday to reduce their roster to 32, seven above the 25-man limit for opening day April 11.

 

Catcher Don McCormack, infielder John Poff and pitcher Paul Thormodsgard were sent to the Phillies' minor league complex for further assignment. Pitcher Burke Suter, whom the Phillies drafted from the Boston Red Sox' Triple A farm team in Pawtucket, R. I., during the winter meetings, also was dropped from the squad.

 

 

Under baseball rules, the Phillies must offer Suter back to the Red Sox for half the $25,000 winter draft price they paid. If the Red Sox don't want Suter back, the Phillies can assign him to one of their minor league teams.