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Dodgers--Yes, It's That Time Already--Are Back in the News

January 14, 1986|GORDON EDES | Times Staff Writer

January in Chavez Ravine, there is no Jack Frost to contend with. There is no Jack Clark, either, so it was safe again for the Dodgers to take their bats and gloves out of storage Monday for their first organized workout of 1986.

Spring training still is five weeks away--Dodger pitchers and catchers are due to report to Vero Beach on Feb. 20, with the full squad checking in five days later--but the Dodgers like to be noticed sooner, and what better time than the day after the Rams follow the Raiders out of the National Football League playoffs?

"Brock? Which one do you want to talk about, Dieter Brock or Greg Brock?" said Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda, equally willing to discuss the Ram quarterback or his first baseman.

Tom Niedenfuer also had Dieter in mind.

"I hope everyone stays behind Dieter Brock because I know how he feels," said the Dodger reliever, who throws far more strikes than the Ram quarterback but ended 1985 with an interception--the pitch that Clark redirected 450 feet in the opposite direction to win the National League pennant.

Someone mentioned that of the two, Niedenfuer had the better arm. "Well, at least I don't throw sidearm," he said.

The Dodgers aren't worried about the way Niedenfuer throws. On Monday, they even were optimistic about Alejandro Pena, the right-hander who is attempting to come back from shoulder surgery. Pena, who led the National League in earned run average in 1984, only pitched 4 innings in 1985, then was scheduled to pitch winter ball until it was decided the shoulder needed more rest. But Monday, Pena began light tossing for the first time, and expressed hope that he'll be ready in spring training.

"It's been a long winter--a long year," Pena said.

Dodger trainer Bill Buhler said it's possible that Pena will be able to follow the same workout regimen as the other Dodger pitchers in spring training. "He (Pena) says he'll pitch this year, and that's good enough for me," Buhler said.

The Dodgers haven't always been as quick to believe Pena. When he first complained of pain near the end of the 1984 season, some team officials were skeptical. Now, there's considerable doubt as to whether Pena ever will be able to throw as hard as he did before he wore down the cartilage in his shoulder socket. Buhler said that Pena's therapy has been designed to regain as much strength as possible in the shoulder while retaining the same range of motion that he had previously.

"He's quite strong in the shoulder now," Buhler said. "He feels quite well."

The Dodgers also are monitoring the condition of Rick Honeycutt, who has had arm trouble ever since coming to the Dodgers in August, 1983. Buhler said Honeycutt, who won just eight games in 1985, was examined within the last month by Dr. Frank Jobe and has been following a series of strengthening exercises for his left shoulder.

There was good news to report on the health front. Dave Anderson, the one-time heir-apparent to shortstop Bill Russell until his chronic back condition gave Mariano Duncan an opening, reported that he has had a pain-free winter. Anderson was not at Monday's workout. He, along with Orel Hershiser, Ken Howell and Mike Scioscia, were on a Dodger caravan conducting clinics.

And Lasorda took special delight in the condition of third baseman Bill Madlock. "He looks like he's lost half a body," Lasorda said of Madlock, who still doesn't rate as a candidate for body beautiful but, according to Buhler, has much better muscle tone than when he joined the Dodgers last August.

Lasorda, of course, is delighted to have Madlock for an entire season in any shape. Last year at this time, Pedro Guerrero still was the Dodger third baseman, Al Oliver the left fielder, and Mariano Duncan a minor leaguer.

"I finally got to go to the Dominican (Republic) when I didn't have to talk Pete into playing third base," Lasorda said.

Dodger Vice President Al Campanis, who just returned from the Dominican, reported that Duncan is batting better than .300 from both the left and right sides of the plate. Duncan batted nearly 80 points lower from the left side as a rookie last season.

Lasorda also indirectly served notice to center fielder Ken Landreaux by extolling the virtues of rookies Jose Gonzalez and Reggie Williams, one of whom figures to platoon with Landreaux this season.

"What a difference a year makes," Lasorda said. "At the same time last year, we had a lot of question marks."

For now, anyway, the Dodgers appear to be a settled team. That could change soon--beginning Wednesday, the deadline for players to file for salary arbitration. Nine Dodgers are eligible, including such front-liners as Fernando Valenzuela, Mike Marshall, Hershiser, Howell, Scioscia, Brock, and Anderson. All expect to file as a formality--Marshall, for one, says the Dodgers have yet to begin negotiations on a new contract.

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