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National League : Horner Taking Time Getting Back Into Swing : Brave new world, revisited:

March 17, 1985|Gordon Edes

Atlanta third baseman Bob Horner, trying to come back from surgery on his right wrist, is less than four weeks away from opening day and still hasn't faced a big-league pitcher this spring. He is hopeful, however, of being ready for the start of the season.

Horner, who broke his right wrist in 1983 while breaking up a double play, broke it again last May 30 when he fell on it while chasing a pop fly. He missed the rest of the season.

Last season, the Braves were 30-23 with Horner, 50-59 without him.

"I don't think I'm being particularly profound when I say we're a different team with Bobby," Dale Murphy, the Atlanta slugger who probably suffers the most in Horner's absence, told one reporter.

Horner has played just 136 games in the last two seasons. The surgery he underwent last November, to repair the navicular bone in his wrist, was a rare procedure, and no one knows whether Horner is permanently healed.

So far, he has faced only coaches in batting practice, although he was expected to go into the batting cage this week against a regular pitcher. At this point, Horner has been making good contact, but he needs to build back the strength in his wrist.

Weight watchers: --Atlanta's Terry Forster, down to 224 pounds after topping out at 256 on the last day of the 1984 season;

--San Diego's LaMarr Hoyt, down to 235 after a high of "about 268" last season;

--St. Louis' Neil Allen, down to 195 after tipping the scales at 220.

All three, incidentally, are pitchers.

Hoyt, the 1983 Cy Young Award winner in the American League who was traded last winter to the Padres, had a few unflattering things to say about his previous team, the Chicago White Sox:

"If you'd have told me in spring training a year ago that the Sox would finish tied for fifth, I'd have said you were crazy. But (pitcher) Richard Dotson said that some guys quit and, absolutely, I agree with him. I'm not naming names or lighting fires, but some of those injuries and how long they took to cure . . .

"We all kept waiting to turn around and win 10 in a row, but it never came. Got to be that something would happen early in a game, and you'd look around the dugout and everybody would be saying, 'Oh shoot, here we go again.' How are you supposed to feel if you're out on the mound in the second inning and you see that kind of attitude?"

The Philadelphia Phillies' starting infield committed 97 errors and was last in the league in double plays with 112, but new Manager John Felske said he has no plans to shift second baseman Juan Samuel to the outfield.

Samuel had a wondrous rookie season offensively--72 stolen bases, 105 runs scored, 191 hits and 701 at-bats, the first player in the history of the league to crack the 700 at-bat mark. But he also committed 33 errors.

"Sammy's our second baseman," Felske said. "He's going to be our second baseman for the next 30 years.

"He was a great offensive player and people dwelt on his defense. He's been working hard on his defense. We sent Tony Taylor down to winter ball, and he spent seven days with Sammy. He took pictures of Sammy.

"We found he was getting in too close with his hands, and his feet were too close. He had a tendency on double plays to drop his head off to the right side, which meant his shoulder was going to drop. His arm would come from down here, and he'd have those bad throws. A year or two from now, he's going to be an outstanding defensive second baseman."

Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda, asked if he'd had a tougher selling job than convincing Pedro Guerrero that life does not end at third base, recalled the time he talked Joe Ferguson, an outfielder, into becoming a catcher.

"Fergie said, 'No way,' " Lasorda said. "I said to him, 'Did you ever hear of Mickey Cochrane? He was an outfielder, switched to catcher, and now he's in the Hall of Fame.' Then I said, 'Did you ever hear of Gabby Hartnett? He switched and he's in the Hall of Fame. Ernie Lombardi? Same thing.' Fergie said, 'All right, I'll do it.'

"Later that night, I told Al Campanis what I'd told Fergie. He said, 'Tommy, those guys were never outfielders.'

"I said, 'Chief, you know it and I know it, but Fergie doesn't know it.' "

Added Lasorda: "Pete's tougher."

One man's opinion: Jerome Holtzman, respected baseball columnist for the Chicago Tribune, on new commissioner Peter Ueberroth: "(He) has demonstrated he is likely to be the best commissioner baseball has ever had, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis included."

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