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Brock Appears to Be on the Block : First Baseman Struggles With Injuries and Trade Rumors

July 22, 1986|GORDON EDES | Times Staff Writer

PITTSBURGH — With every pain-free stride Pedro Guerrero takes, Greg Brock may be moving a step closer to becoming a former Dodger.

First base, which became Brock's legacy when Steve Garvey went south four years ago, may soon be occupied by another player: Guerrero or Franklin Stubbs, with Len Matuszek and Enos Cabell in reserve.

Where does that leave Brock?

His agent, Tony Attanasio, has asked Dodger Vice President Al Campanis to trade the 29-year-old first baseman.

Almost daily, his teammates speculate on potential deals.

And Brock himself acknowledges the likelihood that he is headed elsewhere.

"It might not be so bad either way, whether I stay or go," he said here Monday. "It might be better for me to get out of here."

At the moment, Brock isn't going anywhere. Guerrero is at least a week away from playing for the first time this season, and it remains to be seen how well his left knee will stand the strain. Guerrero tore the patellar tendon in that knee on the last day of spring training and has been recuperating since.

And Brock, who underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee June 24, still can't run. His playing time has been limited to pinch-hitting appearances.

But from all indications, it's just a matter of time before the Dodgers--who could use a center fielder and/or some pitching help--make a change.

Campanis remains noncommittal. "These things work themselves out," he said while in St. Louis with the club. "(The players) make the moves themselves."

Though it may be wishful thinking, the Dodgers are operating on the premise that a healthy Guerrero can galvanize them down the stretch as he did for two months in 1985.

Stubbs, who would have been in Albuquerque if Guerrero had not been injured, has been the revelation of 1986, with 17 home runs, a .276 average, and surprisingly competent play in left field, even though first base is his preferred position.

Before he was hurt, Brock was a disappointment. His average is .212, .054 against left-handers, and he has just 8 home runs and 24 RBIs.

Hence, the speculation that he will soon be gone.

"I have no idea what will happen, but it's out of my control," he said. "There have been all kinds of rumors, but I don't know if anyone knows what will happen.

"I've heard they might move Stubbs to center, and Pete will play left. I've also heard that Pete will play wherever he wants to.

"It's their decision. They've got to make it."

And it's just as obvious to Brock as it is to outside observers that Stubbs has moved ahead of him in the Dodgers' plans.

"Stubbs is having a great year. He's swinging the bat good," Brock said. "I've been hurt, I've been up and down, I'm not having a good year. I can accept that."

Last season, Brock hit .251 with 21 home runs, both career highs, and drove in 66 runs, matching the total of his rookie year, 1983.

On the down side, Brock hit only seven of his home runs after the All-Star break, batted only .178 against left-handed pitchers and wound up being platooned with Cabell. In the playoffs, Brock had just 1 hit in 12 at-bats, a home run.

Then last winter, Brock was the only Dodger to lose in arbitration, receiving a $325,000 salary instead of the $440,000 he had sought. In that hearing, according to Brock, Dodger attorney Bob Walker said the team wasn't even sure whether Brock fit into their plans.

"That hearing was the single-most difficult experience I've ever had," said Attanasio, Brock's agent. "And I know it was one of the most difficult Greg has ever had."

Before spring training, Attanasio said he would seek a trade if the Dodgers chose to platoon Brock again this season. In the last month, Attanasio said he has made two phone calls to Campanis, asking that the Dodgers work out a deal.

"He wasn't receptive at all," Attanasio said. "He said, 'We're not going to make any rash moves at all,' then he gave me a lecture about pulling off the ball, that type of thing.

"He said, 'When the time comes to do it, we'll do it.' "

Attanasio said that Campanis also refused to give him permission to talk with other clubs.

This is not the first time Brock has fallen out of favor with Campanis. In 1984, Brock was sent down to Albuquerque in midseason. And last season, according to a team source, it was Brock, instead of Sid Bream, who originally was supposed to go to Pittsburgh with R. J. Reynolds for Bill Madlock.

Attanasio said that Brock is not eager to leave the Dodgers.

"He loves Tommy (Lasorda), he loves the organization, everything connected with the club," Attanasio said. "And he just bought a brand-new house.

"But from a professional point of view, I think (a trade) would be better for the Dodgers, and better for Greg Brock.

Attanasio said that whatever appreciation the Dodgers feel toward Brock has been "greatly minimized, especially when they say the most difficult thing they've ever done is replace Garvey. And Greg did it.

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