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Spring Training / Angels : Cliburn Briefly Tests His Repaired Shoulder

March 16, 1987|MIKE PENNER | Times Staff Writer

TUCSON — Shoulders on parade underwent another inspection Sunday. Two days after Donnie Moore completed a successful trial run, Stewart Cliburn tested his newly repaired right shoulder against the heart of the Cleveland Indians' heavy-hitting lineup.

He faced four hitters.

Pat Tabler struck out on three pitches. Andre Thornton hit a wind-blown pop fly that dropped in front of left fielder Ruppert Jones, but Thornton was thrown out trying to stretch the hit into a double. Mel Hall chopped a ground-ball single through the middle. Cory Snyder flied to center.

Cliburn made 10 pitches. All of them were strikes.

More significant than that, none of them caused him to wince.

"That was worth the trip for me," Angel Manager Gene Mauch said.

"I got my feet wet," said Cliburn, making his first appearance since undergoing arthroscopic surgery last Nov. 18. "It felt like it was the first game I ever pitched. It had been a while. I had butterflies and everything. But the shoulder felt excellent."

Cliburn was the missing link in the Angel bullpen last season. After an exceptional rookie season in 1985--9-3, 2.09 earned-run average, 6 saves--Cliburn did not pitch an inning for the Angels in 1986. He divided the year between stints on the disabled list and on the Edmonton Trappers roster.

How Cliburn began the season at Edmonton was a point of controversy last April. After laboring through spring training with a bad shoulder, Cliburn pitched in the final game of the Freeway Series and was hit hard by the Dodgers. Following the game, Angel General Manager Mike Port announced that Cliburn did not make the final cut and was headed for Triple-A.

Cliburn, who had insisted that all was well with his shoulder, suddenly changed stories when Port made the decision--claiming he was hurt and should be assigned to the disabled list. It appeared as if Cliburn was trying to wriggle out of a demotion to Edmonton, which is how a miffed Port initially read it.

"If somebody is trying to create something that isn't there then that person is traveling down the wrong road," Port said at the time.

Sunday, Cliburn offered an explanation.

"I was able to go out and compete, but I was not 100%," he said. "Hey, I could've gone out and pitched two or three shutout innings against the Dodgers and Mike Port might've come in and said, 'We've decided we're keeping Cliburn.'

"But I was hit around so badly, I had to go. I hate to think that the decision was made on that one outing. . . . But they had to take the 10 best pitchers they had and at that time, I was not one of those."

Cliburn had originally hoped to keep quiet, pitch well enough to stay on the 24-man roster and then receive medical attention if necessary.

"I asked Mike to put me on the DL, so I could get the proper treatment at the major-league level," he said. "As it was, I ended up on the DL on the minor-league level."

Cliburn, who had previously toiled for eight years in the minors, admitted that the demotion was hard to accept.

"The toughest part was struggling so long to get to the major leagues and then having it bottom out," Cliburn said. "But I don't hold that against (Port). It's like it didn't happen.

"I do know that if I'm healthy, I can pitch in the major leagues."

Mauch supports Cliburn on that view.

"We're not trying to figure out if he can make the team, we're trying to figure out if he's sound," Mauch said. "If Cliburn is well, Cliburn will pitch for the Angels this year--just as he would have last year."

Angel Notes

The Angels managed just four hits against four Cleveland pitchers and lost for the eighth time in 10 games, 5-1. Blame it on the Angel hitters' inability to hit the knuckleball. Tom Candiotti used it to hold the Angels hitless for four innings en route to a six-inning, two-hit stint. A double by Wally Joyner and singles by Devon White, Rob Wilfong and Darrell Miller were the extent of the Angel offense. . . . Rookie Willie Fraser (0-1) allowed eight hits and two runs in four innings, his first appearance as a starter. He struck out two and did not walk a batter. . . . Gary Lucas had a rough relief outing--two innings, five hits, one walk and three earned runs. Mike Cook came on to pitch a perfect eighth inning. . . . After the walkout, Kirk McCaskill makes his first start of the spring today. Ray Chadwick and Donnie Moore will also pitch for the Angels.

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