WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — The screen behind which batting practice pitchers throw is there for their own protection. For Steve Howe, the screen is a menace.
"I hate the things," the Dodger left-hander said Thursday afternoon, not long after a line drive hit by Dodger coach Joe Ferguson struck him in his left elbow, not far from the spot where he underwent surgery in January.
"I can't see the ball off the bat. I was standing there like this (in a follow-through position) and I didn't see it (Ferguson's liner) until the last second," Howe said.
For a frightening moment, it appeared that Howe's hoped-for comeback had just been dealt another setback. But it turned out, after X-rays proved negative, that Howe merely had a bruise, albeit a nasty one.
"No problem," he said. "I should be throwing again Saturday. If it ain't broke, I'm there."
Howe's first appearance in a game is scheduled for next Monday against the Detroit Tigers at Vero Beach. Monday is also April Fools' Day. Any significance?
"Nah," Howe said. "There'll be plenty of fools out there."
The latest in L'Affaire Fimple: The Dodgers announced that catcher Gilberto Reyes had been optioned to Albuquerque, where he will--in the words of a Dodger official--battle Jack Fimple for the Dukes' starting job.
That's a switch from earlier in the week, when the Dodgers said Fimple was headed to Class-AA San Antonio and Fimple said he wouldn't go. Fimple's agent, Alan Meersand, said Fimple would report to the Dukes but still wants to be traded. "I want him (Campanis) to do us a favor," Meersand said. "Let Jack out of prison."
The same applies to Tony Brewer, last season's Pacific Coast League batting champion, Meersand said. "The Dodgers are a great organization," Meersand said, "but why bury two players who have busted their tails for them?"
A possible destination for Brewer: Japan. Meersand said he was given permission by Campanis around the first of the year to place Brewer with a Japanese team, but by that time most of the clubs had filled up the allotted number of foreigners on their roster (two per club).
Dodger Notes The Dodgers ran wild on the Boston Red Sox Thursday, stealing seven bases in nine attempts during an 8-4 win, and they did Dave Sax, Steve's brother, a favor by doing so. Dave Sax, until last season Dodger property, is competing against Jeff Newman for Boston's No. 3 catching job. Newman was behind the plate for the Red Sox Thursday, and one Dodger official said they deliberately ran on him to help Dave Sax. Steve Sax did his part by stealing second and third. Terry Whitfield also had two steals; Greg Brock (on the front end of a double steal with Whitfield), Bill Russell and R.J. Reynolds had the others. . . . Brock, who met with Hall of Famer Ted Williams again Thursday, hit his first home run of the spring, clearing the center-field fence 420 feet away. Brock also had an opposite-field single. . . . Bill Russell, who started at third after the Dodgers left Pedro Guerrero behind, went 3 for 3 and is now hitting .474 (9 for 19). . . . Rick Honeycutt made his first exhibition game appearance (he had worked in a "B" game Sunday), gave up a home run to the first batter he faced, Bill Buckner, but didn't allow another run in three innings of work. "His release point was a little off," Manager Tom Lasorda said, "but his ball was sinking well." . . . Bob Welch went the first five innings and gave up home runs to Jim Rice and Dave Stapleton. It was Rice's fifth home run of the spring.