MILWAUKEE — Not even Gene Mauch's grandest, most outlandish fantasy could have equalled the scenario that unfolded Tuesday night for the return of John Candelaria, the Angels' long-lost left-handed starting pitcher.
The plan, according to Mauch, was to bring back Candelaria nice and easy. Have him pitch five or six innings and keep it close. Maybe the Angel offense would cooperate and give him a couple of early runs to tinker with.
It wasn't much to ask for, Mauch figured.
Welcome to the welcoming party the Angels had organized for Candelaria. Three months in the making, it resulted in a 14-3 rout of the Milwaukee Brewers before a County Stadium crowd of 13,411.
Timing, apparently, was everything for Candelaria. A day earlier, the Angels floundered through 15 innings with nary a run. But Tuesday, for the benefit of their prodigal pitcher, the Angels:
--Gave Candelaria a 7-0 lead by scoring six times in the top of the fifth inning. Included in the barrage was a grand slam by old Pittsburgh buddy George Hendrick, who accompanied Candelaria in last August's trade with the Pirates, and Rick Burleson's third home run of the season.
--Threw Brewer base-runner Jim Gantner out at the plate in the second to preserve what developed into a five-inning shutout for Candelaria.
--Chipped in later with two RBIs by Brian Downing, tying him with Jim Fregosi as the Angels' all-time run-producer, and Wally Joyner's 20th home run, his first in nearly a month.
--Came up with 14 runs and 15 hits, their biggest offensive outpouring in two years.
Amid this embarrassment of riches, Candelaria completed a five-inning test run that saw him allow five hits and three walks while striking out three. He left leading 7-0, en route to his first victory in two decisions.
It wasn't bad for someone who last pitched in a major league game on April 9, a week before undergoing elbow surgery to remove bone spurs. Of course, Candelaria did run into the good fortune of running into a stagnant Brewer offense that managed just one run in the first 23 innings of this series.
So, what was Candelaria's opinion of his performance? He scarcely had a word for reporters as he and Hendrick pulled a silent routine together, bursting out of the clubhouse moments after the final out.
"It felt real good," Candelaria said as he hurried toward the parking lot. "But when the guys get you that many runs, they deserve all the credit. Gotta go."
Mauch, in addition to his role as field manager, played interpreter for his pitcher.
"I'll tell you what he told me," Mauch said. "He said he didn't have much idea where the ball was going, that he felt strange out there, that he had no business making 90 pitches in five innings.
"He said nothing hurt. Everything was comfortable except not knowing where the ball was going."
And what was Mauch's impression?
"The only gauge I was looking for was him being comfortable," Mauch said. "He got people out. What we got is what we wanted."
Candelaria allowed at least one base-runner in each of his five innings. Among the five hits he allowed were a triple by Ernest Riles and a double by Rick Cerone.
Cerone's double moved Milwaukee as close as it would get to scoring against Candelaria. With two out in the second inning, Gantner singled and was sprinting for home on Cerone's hit to left.
But a perfect relay from left fielder Brian Downing to shortstop Dick Schofield to catcher Bob Boone erased Gantner at the plate, ending the threat and the inning.
In the fourth inning, Riles tripled to left with two out but remained there when Gantner flied to left.
Candelaria closed out the fifth inning by striking out the last two hitters he faced, Robin Yount and Cecil Cooper.
"I was very pleased with what I saw," Boone said. "It was a quality outing.
"He had some trouble hitting the inside corner of the plate against right-handed hitters, but I didn't expect him to be as sharp as he was. He was about the same as when I first saw him last year--when he came to us after spending the first two-thirds of the season in the bullpen.
"He got a little tired in the fifth. It's still a matter of getting his arm stronger. I'm excited to see his next outing."
Other Angels were enthused enough over this one.
"It's awful good to have him back," Joyner said. "We finally have a left-hander in our starting rotation. What a great bonus he is to the team. He gives us one more weapon in our arsenal."
Grich: "Just to have a pressure-proven pitcher like Candy back on our staff gives us a lift. We were uncertain about tonight, but this was certainly encouraging. Right now, optimistically speaking, he might give us 10 wins the rest of the way."
Reggie Jackson: "This was a great attitude game for us. Everybody got a hit, Candy's back. We're on a very important road trip and we got a lift from a guy who hadn't pitched in three months. Throw him in there with the way (Mike) Witt, (Kirk) McCaskill and (Don) Sutton have been been throwing, and we've got a pretty good pitching staff."