VERO BEACH, Fla. — From the same people who brought you Buddy Bell to play third base, Floyd Bannister to pitch, and Rickey Henderson to bat leadoff, comes word of another impending Dodger blockbuster. This one's even better: "a miracle deal."
The word came from Dodger Vice President Al Campanis, speaking on KABC radio before the Dodgers' 3-1 loss to the Houston Astros Wednesday in Kissimmee.
Asked by broadcaster Ross Porter if the Dodgers were working on any deals, Campanis replied:
" . . . There's one miracle deal we've talked about that would really stagger all of baseball if we pull it off. It's very difficult to work the kind of thing we're talking about."
Asked by Porter if the deal involved an American League team, Campanis responded: "Not really."
Porter made no attempt to interpret that line. But whether Campanis was being coy or simply was confused remained a mystery. So did the identity of the principals of the so-called miracle, because when Campanis arrived at Dodgertown, he began backpedaling furiously.
"The way I meant it," he said, "was that it would be a fantastic kind of thing if we made it.
"I talked to a guy yesterday (Tuesday) and I said, 'We'd give you so-and-so for so-and-so.' That's as far as it's gone."
By then, however, it may have gone too far, because speculation roared through camp. And there was no telling what the expectations were back in Los Angeles.
"So who's in the blockbuster?" said pitcher Rick Honeycutt, who had stayed back in Vero Beach and heard it on the radio.
One Dodger official was as surprised as the reporters who had been led to believe earlier Wednesday by Campanis that no trades were pending.
"There's no miracle that I know of," he said.
Only one thing was certain: The deal does not involve the one Dodger who most wants to be traded, catcher Jack Fimple. The Dodgers want Fimple to report to Double-A San Antonio; Fimple says he won't go and faces being suspended without pay, the fate that awaits him if he doesn't report on time. "No way I'm going to ride a bus for 12 hours and play on the Double-A level," said Fimple, who is making $58,000 with the Dodgers.
Fimple's agent, Alan Meersand, called Campanis and demanded that Fimple be traded, a rather hollow demand inasmuch as the Dodgers are under no obligation to do so. And while he was at it, Meersand also asked Campanis to trade another of his clients, outfielder Tony Brewer, the Pacific Coast League batting champion who was optioned back to Albuquerque.
"We'd love to take care of him (Fimple) if we could, but to date there hasn't been any interest," Campanis said.
"What did he hit in Albuquerque, .249? Look at Brewer and (Ed) Amelung, they both hit around .350 and we can't trade them."
Dodger reliever Tom Niedenfuer and Angel third baseman Doug DeCinces have gotten prominent mention in the spring rumor mill, but agents for both players said they weren't part of any impending miracles.
"Tom's been traded theoretically to so many different places, he'd have to be the Bionic Man to play in all of them," said Leigh Steinberg, Niedenfuer's agent. "Tom doesn't know anything about it."
Said Warren Legarie, DeCinces' agent: "We just know the few things we've heard and read, but there's nothing concrete."
Campanis was adamant about dropping any clues. He wouldn't say whether the players involved were Hall of Famers, future Hall of Famers or Little Leaguers.
Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda made light of it all. "I told the Chief, 'Don't tell me,' " Lasorda said. "I can keep a secret, but it's the people I tell who can't."
One reporter approached Campanis with his theory: Lasorda to the Reds for Pete Rose.
"The Reds would make that deal in a New York minute," Lasorda said.
It takes a lot longer to pull off a miracle, as Campanis conceded.
"The odds probably are we won't make it," he said.
Dodger Notes Fernando Valenzuela became the first Dodger pitcher to go seven innings this spring and allowed just two hits. Both came in the fifth inning after Valenzuela had retired the first 12 batters. The hits, including a single by winning pitcher Bob Knepper, combined with two walks, produced Houston's first two runs. The Astros added another in Tom Niedenfuer's one inning of work. . . . Mike Scioscia had two doubles for the Dodgers. . . . Rick Honeycutt will pitch for the first time in an exhibition today against the Boston Red Sox.