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Dodger Notebook : Valenzuela Is as Wild as a March Hare, but He Won't Worry Until April

March 15, 1987|SAM McMANIS | Times Staff Writer

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Fernando Valenzuela is having what he considers a normal spring, which means that he hardly resembles the best Dodger pitcher of the decade and the club's most recent 20-game winner.

Five days after being wild and giving up four runs in his first start of spring training, Valenzuela went out again Saturday against the Montreal Expos and pitched even worse.

Valenzuela gave up five runs (only two earned), six hits and five walks. In the first inning alone, Valenzuela yielded four walks and three runs, walking in two. Had it not been for right fielder Mike Marshall, who threw out runners at the plate in both the first and second innings, Valenzuela would have given up seven runs in four innings.

All told, Valenzuela's statistics for the spring--6 innings, 7 runs, 8 hits, 7 walks, 1 wild pitch--are dismal and expected.


"It's not the first time for me," Valenzuela said of his poor spring showing. "Last year, I had a good spring for the first time. Other springs, it's like this."

Indeed, last spring was an unusually good spring for Valenzuela. He had a 0.58 earned-run average in 6 starts, walking just 8 batters in 31 innings. But in previous springs, Valenzuela struggled. In the spring of 1985, for instance, he went 1-5 with a 3.92 ERA.

So, what Valenzuela is trying to say is, don't worry.

If he is still wild and easily hittable on April 6, opening day, then it's cause for concern.

"It's spring training," Valenzuela said after the Dodgers' 9-4 loss to the Expos. "Everybody's working on something. I'm working on my control, and I didn't have it in the first inning. I tried to come to the middle of the plate, and I didn't have good speed on fastballs. So, they see the balls better."

The Expos' hits against Valenzuela were mostly hard shots. Some that weren't were mishandled by the Dodger infield, which had two errors during Valenzuela's four innings.

"My speed was OK, but my control was not," Valenzuela said. "The first inning, the pitches weren't close to the plate. When I threw it in the middle of the plate, they hit it hard.

"I have maybe four more starts. I hope the next time I throw better. Most important, I feel all right. My arm is not sore."

Said pitching coach Ron Perranoski: "It's only natural that he not pitch as well (in the spring) because he doesn't throw (much) in winter workouts. He can't physically make the pitches he can when he's in the groove. I know when I hadn't pitched for a while, I became very apprehensive. Sometimes, you just miss."

Manager Tom Lasorda laughed when a reporter suggested that Valenzuela is having problems.

"You worried about his pitching?" Lasorda asked. "(Bleep), I ain't. He's just getting his arm going. It's not the first time he's done it."

Bob Welch's right elbow, annually inflamed by a bone spur in the spring, did not bother him Saturday in his first spring outing.

Welch threw two innings in a "B" game that preceded the Dodgers' loss to the Expos. He gave up two runs and two hits in the first inning but retired the Expos in order in the second inning. After that, he retired to the bullpen and threw 10 minutes in the bullpen under Perranoski's supervision.

Welch made his debut more than a week later than other Dodger pitchers. But on his personal spring schedule, Welch figured he has thrown against live hitting a few days earlier than usual.

The last few seasons, spring training has been unsettling to Welch. He knows that the bone spur in his right elbow invariably will inflame the tendon when he first starts throwing after the long winter layoff. He just hopes the pain doesn't persist and that the spur doesn't grow. As of Saturday, that hadn't happened. Welch threw pain free.

"I feel fine," Welch said. "I threw the ball well, especially in the second inning. Perry (Perranoski) said just pitch two innings, because he didn't want me to stop and start. So, we went to the bullpen."

Welch, the eldest Dodger in years of service, said it was first-game rustiness that contributed to the fact he gave up hits to the first two batters he faced.

"I'm a little more comfortable (after Saturday)," Welch said. "I love coming to Vero Beach, but it's tough to have this complication (his sore elbow) every spring. But that's part of my profession, nothing new. It's just there. I didn't ask for it. I don't like it. I wish it weren't there."

Dodger Notes

After winning their first three exhibition games, the Dodgers have lost four straight . . . The Dodger infield had three errors Saturday, after committing five in Friday's loss to the New York Mets. "I didn't field them," infield coach Bill Russell said. Neither did his fielders . . . Mike Marshall and Mike Scioscia saved the Dodgers two runs in the first two innings, throwing out runners at home plate . . . Marshall was hit on the elbow by a pitch in the seventh inning. He said he is not hurt . . . Pedro Guerrero made the trip and went 1 for 4 . . . Ken Howell had a rough day. Howell gave up four runs, six hits and three walks in two innings. Said Perranoski: "Kenny Howell threw 90 m.p.h., and they hit him. It's a puzzle. He tried to mix up his pitches, then he got behind, so he has to throw good pitches, and they hit him."

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