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Parker and Reds Get Off to a Good Start : Tradition Takes a Back Seat as They Rally to Beat Phillies, 7-4

April 08, 1986|ROSS NEWHAN | Times Staff Writer

CINCINNATI — Tradition took the first beating here Monday. Then it was Steve Carlton's turn.

Now 41 and coming off a season in which he was 1-8, having spent 10 weeks on the disabled list with a strained rotator cuff, the Philadelphia Phillies' left-hander was given a 3-0 lead in the first inning of the first game of 1986 and failed to hold it.

The Cincinnati Reds rallied for a 7-4 victory, providing a crowd of 54,960--the largest ever for a regular-season game at Riverfront Stadium--something to cheer about and their dreaded rivals from Los Angeles something to think about.

"Attitude-wise, this team is right where the Big Red Machine was," Manager Pete Rose said of the Reds' comeback against Carlton.

The Reds, who got the machine rolling again last year, revived memories in other ways, as well.

Eric Davis, the center fielder from Fremont High, capped a four-run second inning with a three-run homer off Carlton. Dave Parker, who still doesn't understand how he lost last year's Most Valuable Player award to Willie McGee, had two doubles and a solo homer.

The fifth-inning home run off Carlton might have reached Columbus if it hadn't encountered the mezzanine deck above the 404-foot sign in center.

Said Rose: "This wasn't a good start, it was a good continuation. Dave just picked up where he left off."

Said the 34-year-old Parker, who hit 34 homers, drove in 125 runs and batted .312 last year: "As long as I stay healthy, I can do even more (than last year). I never sell my ability short. I've hit .300 several times. I've won most of the major awards. That kind of ability doesn't just take a hike."

Carlton did, after allowing seven runs and nine hits in four-plus innings, settling for another L, the 216th of a career in which he has 314 Ws.

But it was a nice day, at least. There was bright sun, temperature in the 70s, and none of the customary snow, rain and frostbite.

If that was one break with tradition, there were others.

This was Cincinnati's 100th home opener in the 102 years it has been in the National League. The first pitch of the new season, however, was thrown in Detroit, where the Tigers moved the starting time of a game against Boston to 1:35, 30 minutes ahead of Mario Soto's first pitch to the Phillies.

Reds' owner Marge Schott responded Monday by posting a message on the center-field scoreboard that urged fans to set their watches back to 1:30.

She also said that she will officially protest to Commissioner Peter Ueberroth, seeking to re-establish Cincinnati's historic role as host to the first game and pitch.

There was also a new role for Rose, who had been in the starting lineup for all 22 of his previous major league openers, 17 in Cincinnati.

This time, he was restricted to making out the lineup, having gone on the disabled list for only the second time in his career Sunday.

That decision was based on the following:

--Rose had only 17 spring at-bats because of a hiatal hernia and flu. "I now feel fine, but I'm behind with the bat," he said. "I'm not ready to contribute."

--The move provides additional time to appraise a roster problem. The Reds are carrying eight outfielders, three of them rookies.

Rose will be eligible to play April 18, by which time the Reds hope to have traded veteran Eddie Milner and/or to have a better feel as to which of the rookies should stay.

"We have some young outfielders who are good prospects and good players," Rose said. "But if I continue to feel healthy and continue to swing the bat like I can, I'm going to help the team by continuing to play.

"By the same token, if every one of these guys is hitting the hell out of the ball when it's time for me to come off, I won't come off. I don't want to break up a good thing.

"I mean, I hope every one of them is hitting .300, but you and I know that somebody won't be."

Asked how he felt about missing opening day, Rose said: "I don't like it at all. Who would? There's a great tradition to it. There's a World Series atmosphere about it. But it's not like I have nothing to do. I probably have more things to do on opening day than any disabled player in big league history."

The manager arrived in his clubhouse office at 8 a.m. after a sleepless night thinking about his lineup. He had planned to start Tony Perez at first base, but Perez remains plagued by a spring groin pull.

Rose eventually decided to move left fielder Nick Esasky to first and start one of the rookies in left--Tracy Jones, 25, a Lawndale High and Loyola Marymount product who said he giggled like a girl when he got the news.

No one was giggling when the game's first batter, former Red Gary Redus, hit a high fly to shallow left. Jones got a hesitant jump, had the ball in his glove as he attempted a sliding catch, then lost it as Redus reached second on a double.

Soto's ensuing error on a sacrifice bunt helped lead to three unearned runs and a sickening feeling in the pit of Jones' stomach.

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