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Dodgers Pay a Big Price (Welch) to Improve : They Get a Shortstop and Two Relief Pitchers

December 12, 1987|ROSS NEWHAN | Times Staff Writer

Their goal was to leave here as the favorite in the American League West. They traded for Dave Parker, signed free agent Ron Hassey and now have a new staff ace in Welch.

"We're still not perfect, but I don't see a perfect team anywhere," Manager Tony LaRussa said. "Sandy has done a hell of a job here. We've filled a lot of holes. On paper, we should win 90 to 100 games."

Only four pitchers in Dodger history have won more games than Welch.

"You know that I have a stomach of iron, but it's been in a knot since last night at the thought of Bob leaving," Lasorda said. "He's meant so much to us. He's helped us to so many playoff and (World) Series victories. He's our senior player since Billy (Russell) retired.

"You win 15 games with the type team we had last year and you know what he's going to do with a good team. We can't replace a pitcher of his caliber. You just insert someone in there to do the job. We have four or five guys to choose from."

With Orosco and Howell available in the bullpen, Lasorda said he will consider returning Alejandro Pena to the rotation and that Shawn Hillegas, Tim Belcher and Tim Leary will also be given opportunities to join Fernando Valenzuela and Orel Hershiser as starters.

The Dodgers in recent years have received a number of painful reminders of the inherent risk in trades. This one is no different, and it goes beyond the fact that Howell is 32 and Griffin and Orosco are 30.

Howell has not pitched since having bone chips removed from his right elbow in August. Griffin suffered a jammed left thumb in September, was fitted for a cast Tuesday and will wear it for four or five weeks.

Claire dismissed those possible problems. He said that Dr. Frank Jobe had been asked to investigate the new Dodgers' physical status and reported that neither's injuryrepresented a long-term threat.

There certainly seems to be nothing wrong with Griffin's heart, and Claire said that was a major factor in the trade. A .258 career hitter with 167 stolen bases, Griffin is known as a gamer.

"He plays hard and he plays hurt," said Bill Rigney, an A's adviser. "His character? Top of the line."

Claire concurred, saying he had talked to several people about Griffin's character and competitiveness, and that he looks for Griffin to be a positive influence on the organization's many other Dominican infielders, including Duncan.

Said Lasorda: "I haven't seen him that much but I hear he's a hell of a player. I looked at his record over the last six years and he's played all 162 games four times and more than 140 the other two. That's something we haven't had."

Why then would the A's trade the player who had been what Alderson called "the glue that held us together?" Welch represented a missing link, he said, and they are confident that a touted Walt Weiss is on the verge of shortstop stardom.

The Dodgers were without candidates at that key position and painfully mindful that they had led the majors in errors for two straight seasons, had lost 32 games by one run last season and were last in the league in saves.

The three newcomers figure to help turn it around.

The flame-throwing Howell had 29 saves in 1985, 16 in '86 and 16 more last season, when he attempted to pitch in pain for several weeks before his surgery. The resulting inconsistency led to rude treatment by the fans, including a battery of boos when he was introduced at the All-Star game in Oakland, where he expected better.

Howell, disturbed by the environment, reportedly asked the A's to trade him. Orosco, who is guaranteed a $1-million salary in '88, had also requested a trade, reportedly feeling that he had been used too irregularly to maintain his form.

He had 16 saves in 58 appearances after registering 86 over the previous four years. In eight appearances in the 1986 playoffs and World Series, he allowed 3 runs in 13 innings, striking out 16.

"I've always liked Orosco," Lasorda said. "He's a tremendous competitor and winner."

He also should be at home in Dodger Stadium, since he reportedly dreamed of playing there as a youth growing up in Santa Barbara.

In the wake of Steve Howe, the Dodgers have now traded for a left-handed relief pitcher in each of the last four years. Carlos Diaz is gone. Ed Van de Berg is gone. And now Young, who missed the last five weeks of the season with a sprained elbow ligament, is gone.

Claire said he is confident Orosco will do better. How else would he feel after completing his first major trade as Al Campanis' successor and shelving, for the time being or longer, the issue of indecisiveness.

"I never attempted to hold up the convention," he said. "I stated our intentions and stayed after them. I wasn't going to be forced into making a trade just to make one. I was prepared to walk out without having made one."

Awake virtually all night tending to the details of the one he made, Claire might have been sleepwalking when he did finally leave.

THE TRADE

The players involved in the three-way trade among the Dodgers, New York Mets and Oakland A's Friday:

DODGERS

Obtained from Oakland A's pitcher Jay Howell, shortstop Alfredo Griffin and pitcher Jesse Orosco (via New York Mets).

NEW YORK METS

Obtained from Oakland A's pitchers Wally Whitehurst, Kevin Tapani and Jack Savage (via Dodgers).

OAKLAND A'S

Obtained from Dodgers pitchers Bob Welch and Matt Young.

ALFREDO GRIFFIN

POS: SHORTSTOP

AGE: 30

Year Team G HR RBI SB AVG 1987 Oakland 144 3 60 26 .263 Career Totals 1370 22 396 167 .258

JAY HOWELL

POS: PITCHER (RH)

AGE: 32

Year Team G W-L SV SO ERA 1987 Oakland 36 3-4 16 35 5.89 Career Totals 238 29-30 71 167 4.16

JESSE OROSCO

POS: PITCHER (LH)

AGE: 30

Year Team G W-L SV SO ERA 1987 N.Y. Mets 58 3-9 16 78 4.44 Career Totals 372 47-47 107 508 2.74

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