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Dodgers Faced With Choices on Eve of Spring Training

February 18, 1988|SAM McMANIS | Times Staff Writer

VERO BEACH, Fla. — The Dodgers used to approach spring training as little more than a renewal of acquaintances among veterans, a chance to compare off-season tans and a vehicle for Manager Tom Lasorda to wax rhapsodic about the wonders of baseball.

The lineup would have mostly taken shape, even if the regulars themselves hadn't. Controversial free agents were not even allowed near the premises, and competition was something reserved for the golf course. A good time, it seemed, was had by all.

But these are days of upheaval in Dodgertown, the result of consecutive 73-89 seasons and a winter of personnel moves that will greatly rearrange the order of things during the club's annual six-week migration to this sleepy oceanside town.

Dodger pitchers and catchers and those on injury rehabilitation duty are scheduled to arrive today, followed next week by the other roster players. If players are expecting quiet and uneventful days in the sunshine, maybe they should check out the lawn bowling and shuffleboard facilities across town.

The Dodger goal this spring will be to make some sense of a jumbled mess in which only catcher Mike Scioscia, shortstop Alfredo Griffin, newly acquired left fielder Kirk Gibson and perhaps free agent right fielder Mike Davis are assured of starting spots.

Competition for the remaining starting positions, as well as at least two gaping holes in the starting pitching rotation, will be the source of much intrigue and potential acrimony. And, the specter of a major trade involving one or more of the Dodger marquee names still hovers.

Even the spacious Dodger clubhouse might not be large enough to accommodate all the egos and bulging wallets that executive vice president Fred Claire assembled during his winter shopping excursion.

Already, one Dodger, Franklin Stubbs, is upset enough to meet with Claire and suggest ("I didn't demand anything," Stubbs said last weekend) a trade.

Both Pedro Guerrero and Mike Marshall, clubhouse foes several times last season, are back, despite the trade talk involving each. They will be joined by the no-nonsense Gibson, who didn't exactly endear himself to his new teammates at his introductory press conference at Dodger Stadium

"Contrary to many beliefs, I'm easy to get along with," Gibson said. "As long as a everyone on the team is giving 100%, then there won't be any problems. If not, then there are going to be some problems."

Clubhouse strife no doubt concerns Claire, but he relishes the idea of intense competition for positions, even among stars.

"I like competition," Claire said. "I think it's healthy for a team."

Trying to analyze the Dodger situation at this early stage is as futile, if not as comical, as the Abbott and Costello "Who's on first?" gag.

So, who's on first?

Well, Guerrero has squatter's rights to first base simply because he finished last season there. But Marshall's off-season order of first basemen gloves arrived a few weeks ago and he has dutifully been fielding throws and ground balls at Dodger Stadium workouts. Hovering somewhere in limbo is Stubbs, last season's incumbent, whose name curiously is seldom mentioned these days by Dodger management.

Guerrero likes first base. He is not as much of a defensive liability there as in left field. He doesn't need much mobility, which obviously isn't a Guerrero attribute. It also might lessen the possibility of injury. And besides, it's a shorter trot from the dugout to the position, although the glove is bulkier.

News of the first base log jam, resulting from the signing of Gibson and Davis, apparently has reached the reclusive Guerrero in the Dominican Republic.

Claire and Lasorda have been unable to reach Guerrero since the acquisition of Gibson, but scout Mel Didier talked with him on a recent Latin American trip. Guerrero is expected to report sometime between Feb. 23 and March 1, the last day players can report without being fined.

In December, Guerrero was incensed when he heard that the Dodgers considered trading him for Gibson without telling him. He said the Dodgers treated him "like a piece of meat."

It can only be speculated as to Guerrero's reaction to having Gibson as a teammate is speculative, at best, as well as his reaction to the persistent rumors that he might be traded before April.

If the Dodgers keep Guerrero, it would appear first base is the only spot for him. Where does that leave Marshall? Well, he either will be battling Guerrero at first or Davis in right field. Or, perhaps, Marshall will find himself with a new address.

There doesn't seem to be any room for Stubbs in the Dodgers' plans. The power-hitting left-handed hitter can play either first base or the outfield, but those spots have been filled by players with higher salaries, batting averages and reputations.

Stubbs, who hit 16 home runs but had only a .233 average last season, expressed his frustration over his plight last weekend at a Dodger Stadium workout.

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