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Charlie Kerfeld Has Shed Weight, but Not His Wild Personality

July 12, 1987|JEFFREY T. SHAIN | United Press International

TUCSON — Charlie Kerfeld, sent to the minors partly for punishment, figures he has learned his lesson.

"I kind of wonder where I stand with the (Houston) organization. I really do," said Kerfeld, currently pitching for the Tucson Toros of the Pacific Coast League.

A year ago, Kerfeld was one of the best young relievers in baseball, finishing with an 11-2 record and seven saves for the Astros and posting a 2.59 earned-run average. In addition, he finished fourth in balloting for Rookie of the Year.

His personality also made him popular among the fans, bringing his punk haircut and Jetson T-shirts with him to the National League playoffs, where the media picked up on his irreverent humor and gave him national exposure.

But he came to spring training overweight and struggled throughout the spring and early this season. After giving up 13 runs and 22 hits in 12 innings, he was sent to Tucson to lose weight and find the form that made successful in 1986.

"I got up as high as 266 (pounds) this year," said Kerfeld, adding that he pitches best at 250. "Then I got off to such a bad start. Everybody looks for something to point their finger at as an excuse. That was it."

The problems followed him to Tucson. He pitched poorly in his early outings, carrying an ERA of more than 10.00 for the first few weeks.

Not all his troubles dealt with his pitching. He was suspended for two games after throwing the ball at Toro Manager Bob Didier when Didier tried to remove Kerfeld from a game. Kerfeld later staged a one-day walkout after Rocky Childress was called up by Houston, saying he should have been the one to get the call.

"I came down here with a negative attitude. There's no doubt about it," Kerfeld said. "I tried not to--that's one thing I told myself not to do. And I did (have a negative attitude), and it hurt me. There you go, another lesson to be learned."

Personality might also have been an issue, he said.

"When you're going good, you can say whatever you want to say and do whatever you want to do," Kerfeld said. "But when you're going bad, you're supposed to change your whole attitude. I don't change. I'm the same."

Didier said Kerfeld "was frustrated the first couple of weeks."

"He's not the first guy to get sent down that's played two or three years in the big leagues," Didier said. "It's a tough mental adjustment. He wasn't ready to make it. He had a good year in the big leagues last year, but that was last year."

Didier said Kerfeld has adjusted since the walkout.

"He comes out, works hard," Didier said.

However, Kerfeld has made no attempt to hide his dislike for playing in Tucson, calling it "miserable."

"I don't like coming to the ballpark here," he said. "It's 105 degrees--just hot as hell. And it seems like the fans in Tucson are kind of negative. It's just a bad situation."

Kerfeld said he has spoken to the Houston front-office once, talking to General Manager Dick Wagner after Childress was called up.

"I talked to him in haste--I was very disappointed about what happened," he said. "I lost my head for a second and said some things I probably shouldn't have said to him. I realize I made a mistake."

Wagner said Kerfeld has shown improvement, and the weight problem is the only thing standing in the way of his return.

"We've asked him to get a correction in his weight, downward, and if he does that, then we'll see him in Houston again," Wagner said. "If not, we won't. It's really up to him."

Kerfeld said he has the weight problem under control.

"I've kept my weight between 248 and 251 (pounds) every day but one for the last month, so I think I've done everything they've asked me to do with my weight," he said.

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