VERO BEACH, Fla. — There is a little Italian restaurant on the outskirts of town that Dodger catcher Mike Scioscia frequents. It has two of the things Scioscia likes most, fresh pasta and reasonable prices.
Scioscia, who at the request of Dodger management lost 10 pounds in the off-season, still is able to enjoy eating, so long as it's something that isn't too fattening, like pasta.
What Scioscia has gained, not lost, is mobility behind the plate and a fatter batting average in spring training. He had two hits in the Dodgers' 6-4 loss to the Atlanta Braves here Monday, raising his average to .500.
Scioscia isn't sure his weight loss is behind his good spring. It might also be that the injuries that nagged him last season have healed, or that he simply is working hard to improve.
"As far as I can tell, it can't be hurting me," Scioscia said. "I think it's got to make me quicker. Al Campanis (Dodger vice president) and Tommy have been yelling at me for years to lose weight. I decided to do it.
"It was great when I found out pasta was good for athletes, that we need it. I mean, that was like VJ Day for me when I heard that."
Like many other Dodgers, Scioscia had a disappointing season in 1986. He hit .251, down 45 points from 1985, and his runs batted in dropped from 53 to 26.
"The injuries had a part to play in it," Scioscia said. "But for the most part, I just got into bad habits at the plate, bad mechanical habits. I knew what I was doing wrong, but I never really got out of it. Maybe it was because of the injuries."
But in Scioscia's mind, his work behind the plate always is more important than what he does at it.
Scioscia is generally regarded as the best in baseball at blocking the plate when runners are trying to score. But he admits that he still needs work on throwing out runners attempting to steal, as well as handling the Dodgers' pitching staff.
"I've got to be more consistent in throwing guys out," Scioscia said. "More important is working with the pitchers and knowing what works for them. You got to have a catcher who can do everything. Losing the weight might help most on defense. Hitting, for me, is like a bonus."
Scioscia said the hardest thing is keeping from gaining back the 10 pounds he dropped.
"I didn't think I was overweight, but I think most everybody could lose a couple pounds," he said. "After I did it, I kind of liked looking almost the same way I did in high school."
Dodger Notes Infielder Craig Shipley and pitcher Balvino Galvez were optioned to Albuquerque after Monday game. Shipley was hitting .167 in spring games, and Galvez gave up two runs and two hits in two-thirds of an inning in his only spring appearance. "As I've said before about cutting the roster, we didn't make the decision," Al Campanis, Dodger vice president, said. "They play themselves either on or off the team. They just aren't ready. We felt it better if they go to Albuquerque and get to play more in those (spring) games." . . . The Dodgers' loss Monday was their sixth straight. Tim Leary, battling with Alejandro Pena and Jerry Reuss for the fifth starting spot, pitched 4 innings and gave up 4 runs, 6 hits and 4 walks. Said pitching Coach Ron Perranoski: "You can't expect him to go out there and throw bullets every day. When you start trying too hard, which is what I think he might be doing, it throws you out of kilter. It looks like he's forcing his pitches. He's over-pitching."
Injury update: Outfielder Mike Marshall left the game after four innings to have a wart removed from the index finger on his left hand. Infielder Dave Anderson took the day off because of back stiffness. Third baseman Bill Madlock missed his fourth game in the last five days because of inflammation in his right shoulder. Dodger trainers said that Madlock had received an anti-inflammatory shot Sunday. . . . Orel Hershiser looked good pitching 4 innings, giving up 2 runs on 4 hits. He struck out 5 batters. . . . The win Monday was earned by Brave reliever Steve Ziem, a Cal Poly Pomona graduate who gave up only a bloop single to Mike Scioscia in two innings of work. . . . The wife of Dodger outfielder Jose Gonzalez gave birth Monday to the couple's first child, Joseph Lee.