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Morris Is All Business, Beats Angels

May 01, 1987|MIKE PENNER | Times Staff Writer

When free agent Jack Morris came knocking on the Angels' door last December, owner Gene Autry and General Manager Mike Port took one look at the team payroll, took another at organization's pitching depth chart, listened to Morris' request for $2 million a year and quickly closed the door.

Back then, it seemed like good business. The way Port figured, passing on Morris and promoting a prospect such as Willie Fraser or Urbano Lugo meant an annual savings of about $1.93 million. Maybe the kids won't win 20 games but Port had no guarantee Morris would, either. Remember Bill Travers and John D'Acquisto?

Well, Thursday night, Angel financial planning wound up in the red. Morris returned to Anaheim, back in the uniform of the Detroit Tigers, and beat the team that told him no, 12-4, improving his 1987 record to 3-2 and his career mark against the Angels to 11-6.

Morris was in less than classic form, allowing nine hits in nine innings. But he struck out eight and looking positively smashing compared to the four bodies who took their turns on the mound for the Angels.

Fraser was the Angels' starter and loser, allowing four runs on five hits and five walks in five-plus innings. He surrendered a two-run home run to Dave Bergman and threw a wild pitch that allowed another runner to score.

Following Fraser, after a a brief appearance by Gary Lucas, were two more leaders of the Angels' youth movement--Mike Cook and Miguel Garcia. Cook lasted an inning, serving up a grand slam to rookie catcher Matt Nokes along the way. Garcia, making his major-league debut, allowed two singles and a walk in his first Angel inning, also threw a wild pitch that allowed a run.

Could the Angels have used Morris? Consider this:

--McCaskill, who won 17 games in 1986, is probably lost until the All-Star game after undergoing elbow surgery Monday.

--Fraser and Lugo, the fourth and fifth starters, have not won in a combined five starts.

--Thursday's rout marked the third time in five days that Angel pitching allowed 10 runs in a game.

These are the thoughts Angel Manager Gene Mauch took to bed with him Thursday night.

"I'm still sorting things out in my mind," Mauch said. "And when we get it sorted out, (the pitching staff) will be effective and the way we want it. These kind of things can happen to a veteran staff as well."

Of Fraser, Mauch said: "I thought his stuff was good, as good when he left as when he started. Only his control bothered him.

"There might be a little change in his attitude after he went from reliever to starter. When he was relieving, he'd just whale away--go out there and let 'er fly."

This time, Bergman let it fly, erasing a 2-0 Angel lead with a two-run home run in the second inning. Fraser later threw a wild pitch for a run in the fifth and opened the sixth by hitting Chet Lemon.

That would be Fraser's final pitch of the evening. Lucas came on to surrender a single to Darnell Coles, moving Lemon to third. Lemon scored on a double-play ball by Tom Brookens.

Lucas encountered immediate trouble in the seventh, surrendering singles to Larry Herndon and Lou Whitaker. Alan Trammell's sacrifice moved the runners along and Mauch went to the bullpen for Cook.

Cook's walked John Grubb, loading the bases. On the next pitch, Nokes unloaded them, hitting his second home run in two nights. It was Nokes' first major-league grand slam and made it 8-3.

For the Angels, it would get worse.

Garcia, the 21-year-old left-hander recalled from Midland to fill McCaskill's spot on the roster, gave up hits to the first three Tigers. The third hit, by Mike Heath, drove home a run. Garcia followed Fraser's lead by unleashing a wild pitch with a runner on third, enabling Detroit to reach double figures.

After finally getting out of the eighth inning, Garcia opened the ninth by walking Coles and Brookens. Pat Sheridan hit a bloop single, loading the bases with none out.

Coles scored when third baseman Doug DeCinces fielded a grounder by Herndon and threw home, the ball grazing Coles and bouncing away for an error. Sheridan scored Detroit's and final run when Whitaker grounded into a forceout.

Meanwhile, Morris pitched his second complete game in five starts. He was stung early--allowing a leadoff single to Brian Downing and a two-run home run to Devon White in the first inning--but scattered six singles over the final eight innings.

Morris was asked about avenging the Angels' snub of last December.

"To tell you the truth, I didn't even think about that," Morris said. "With all the trouble we've had the last few weeks, I just wanted to just us on the right track."

Morris did precisely that for the Tigers, now 9-12 after a two-game sweep of the Angels. Sparky Anderson, Detroit's manager, was glad to be on the right side of Morris' pitching this night.

"When Jack Morris smells a win you're not gonna get to him," Anderson said. "It's over."

And when this game was over, Morris had made his point with the Angels, albeit four months later.

Angel Notes Tonight is Bobby Grich/Bob Boone Night. Before the game, Grich, the Angels' retired second baseman, will be the focus of a half-hour's worth of dedications, speeches and presentations. And before that, the Angels and Boone will resume negotiations that could end a four-month separation between the team and the 39-year-old catcher. Boone turned down an offer of $883,000 from the Angels on Jan. 8 and it's believed General Manager Mike Port will open talks with a figure considerably lower than that. If so, negotiations could take awhile. "I don't have any right to expect a quick signing," Manager Gene Mauch said.

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