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American League : Whitaker Has Second Thoughts About Third

March 31, 1985|ROSS NEWHAN

PALM SPRINGS — Detroit Tigers catcher Lance Parrish reflected on the soap opera nature of the week's events and suggested it be titled, "As The Infield Turns."

Said catcher-third baseman Marty Castillo: "It's a good thing Sparky didn't write the Ten Commandments or there would have been plenty of revisions by now."

Manager Sparky Anderson had said of the decision to move Lou Whitaker to third base, creating a vacancy at second for rookie Chris Pittaro, that it was "etched in stone, set in cement."

So much for masonry.

After just four days of playing third in simulated games, Whitaker exercised the escape clause Anderson had provided, asking to return to second, where he was part of what his manager believed was and is the strongest up-the-middle combination in baseball.

Anderson, witnesses said, was not pleased with Whitaker's decision, but accepted it.

Whitaker said there was not enough time to become comfortable at a new position before the season started.

He also said that his wife, Crystal, was against it, although he didn't explain why.

Maybe the Whitakers were concerned about clubhouse whispers that the move would disrupt the Tigers' valuable depth, and displace role players Tom Brookens, Barbaro Garbey and Castillo, all of whom played third last year.

Anderson wasn't happy on that count, either.

He indicated that the grumbling was no way for world champions to act and that he would probably lecture the offending players.

He also said that although Whitaker was moving back to second, he wouldn't allow third to become a revolving door again.

He said Pittaro--"the best young player I've had in 15 years"--would now be the regular third baseman, a position he has never played regularly before.

"We're building for the future," the former Cincinnati manager said. "The Reds won more games than anyone in the '70s, and I'd like to think the Tigers will win more games than anyone in the '80s."

Detroit will begin the season with 423 wins for the decade, 13 fewer than the No. 1 Baltimore Orioles.

Add Tiger Tales:

-- Outfielder Kirk Gibson got cortisone and crutches for a bruised right instep that will keep him sidelined until midweek.

--Relief pitcher Willie Hernandez is day to day with a stiff neck.

--A lingering shoulder problem will restrict Parrish to catching simulated games and serving as a designated hitter in exhibition games until the season starts. It's considered a precautionary move.

--Veteran relief pitcher Aurelio Lopez gave up five runs in two innings while wearing contact lenses for the first time. Lopez said he would not wear them again because they blurred his vision.

"I don't need them," he said. "I know where the plate is."

John McNamara, the former Angel manager now at Boston's helm, made a bold move this week. He assigned Bobby Ojeda to the bullpen as the left-handed complement to Bob Stanley and Mark Clear. Ojeda was 12-12 last year and tied Geoff Zahn for the league lead in shutouts with five.

How tough is Ojeda on left-handed hitters?

"If I was forced to face Ojeda every day, I'd be making $1 million a year--playing in the USFL," said Detroit's Kirk Gibson, a former Michigan State football star.

Said McNamara: "I'm here to win. Sometimes you have to take chances. In this division you can't win without a deep and versatile bullpen."

Ojeda liked the idea.

"My biggest problem has been concentration," he said. "Coming out of the bullpen, I won't have time to let my mind wander.

"The only no vote came from my daughter. She thinks I'll be edgy every day now."

The Boston rotation has Roger Clemens, Bruce Hurst, Dennis Boyd and Bruce Kison. McNamara thinks he can get by without a fifth starter until Al Nipper returns April 20 after a bout with ulcers.

The Milwaukee Brewers are back to thinking that Robin Yount will have to play regularly in left field this year. Yount had arthroscopic surgery for a bone spur in his right shoulder in November, then learned in January that he also has a calcium deposit there.

His spring work has indicated that the shoulder may not survive the frequency of a shortstop's demanding throws but that it is strong enough for him to get through the year as an outfielder. He would then have more postseason surgery and return as a shortstop in '86.

American League batting champion Don Mattingly, returning from arthroscopic knee surgery, homered and doubled in his first two exhibition at-bats last week, prompting New York Yankee hitting instructor Lou Piniella to say: "It's just not right. He makes it look too easy."

The spring began with Angel Manager Gene Mauch lauding the club's farm products. It is about to end in the same manner.

"I've only had a few can't-misses," Mauch said. "I mean, guys you knew were going to play well from the minute you saw them."

Mauch named Dick Allen, whom he managed, or tried to, in Philadelphia, and Gary Carter, whom he had in Montreal.

Among Angel prospects, Mauch cited first baseman Wally Joyner and third baseman Jack Howell.

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