The cloud that hung over the Dodgers and Bill Madlock for the better part of a week was lifted Friday when the Dodgers gave the disgruntled third baseman his unconditional release.
The move was made not only to accommodate Madlock, who had asked to be traded, but also to open a roster spot for right fielder Mike Marshall, who came off the disabled list and was in the lineup Friday night for the first time since May 5.
Madlock, unhappy with his diminished playing time, made his trade demand last Sunday in New York after spending three straight games on the bench.
In a brief meeting with reporters before Friday night's game, the four-time National League batting champion said he expected to be released and that his only disappointment in leaving the Dodgers was that it hadn't happened sooner.
"I wish they would have gotten rid of me at the winter meetings," he said.
Unable to trade Madlock, the Dodgers placed him on waivers. If no National League teams claim him, almost a certainty considering his salary of $850,000 and his reputation as a less-than-adequate defensive player, he will be free to sign with any team in either league next Thursday.
The team that signs him would have to pay him only the prorated major league minimum of $62,500, with the Dodgers obligated to pay the balance of his salary.
Fred Claire, the Dodger vice president, said there was some interest, but that he couldn't work out a trade for Madlock, who underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder April 10 and hit only .180 in 21 games this season.
"Why trade for somebody when you can get him for 62.5?" Madlock said. "That would be stupid."
Madlock's agent, Steve Greenberg, said he had spoken with three American League teams, and that two had expressed interest in his client.
Greenberg said the events of the last week had weighed heavily on Madlock, who was greeted by scattered booing from Dodger Stadium crowds this week.
"I'm sure this is a relief to him," Greenberg said. "He wants to get on with his life and his season and to go out and play ball, which is what he loves to do."
Said Madlock: "Vin Scully told me, 'All you want is four at-bats and three meals a day.' And he's right. . . .
"I hope I do half as good as some of the other players they've traded away."
Madlock, 36, spent less than two full seasons with the Dodgers.
Acquired in a 1985 trade that sent Sid Bream, R.J. Reynolds and Cecil Espy to the Pittsburgh Pirates, he hit .360 in 34 games with the Dodgers, helping them win the National League West.
Last year, hampered by a strained left quadricep and a groin injury in the first half of the season, Madlock batted only .280, but led the Dodgers with 60 runs batted in. He also led National League third baseman with 24 errors.
Madlock said he got a strong feeling that he didn't fit into the Dodgers' plans after former vice-president Al Campanis met with him after the first day of spring training this year to complain about his attitude.
"Regardless of what you do," Madlock said, "you might not fit the Dodger mold."