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Dodgers : Newcomers Begin Fight for Starting Jobs

February 25, 1988|SAM McMANIS | Times Staff Writer

VERO BEACH, Fla. — They lugged bulging duffel bags and briefcases, as well as some hefty reputations and egos, into the clubhouse here Wednesday morning, each believing a position in the Dodgers' starting lineup will be his.

In one corner were Steve Sax and Mike Marshall. Mike Davis and John Shelby were camped in another sector, and Kirk Gibson made his presence felt all around. Coming soon, the Dodgers insist, will be Pedro Guerrero, the final big gun of the Dodgers' altered and seemingly overstocked lineup.

"There are so many new guys here, I thought I was the one who got traded," pitcher Orel Hershiser said the other day.

The problem now is where to put these players who are accustomed to routinely seeing their names on the lineup card.

Fred Claire, the Dodgers' executive vice president, calls it a pleasant problem. But to the players involved, it could be the source of much anxiety and discord.

Here are the positions in question and a few initial reactions from the candidates:

--The Dodgers have four starting outfielders (Gibson, Shelby, Davis and Marshall) but only two open positions, since left field clearly is Gibson's. All told, the club has 11 outfielders on the 40-man roster.

Said Davis: "I'm not a fourth outfielder . . . I really don't see myself fighting for a job. My ability will show through, and I'll have a job. I'll stay in right (field), or I don't mind competing with John Shelby in center."

Said Shelby: "I'm not going to take anything for granted, even though they've talked about me in center field. When spring training is over, then we'll have an idea, and I think I can be in the lineup."

Said Marshall: "I'm not assured of a job? I think I am. I'll either be playing first base, right field or somewhere else (in either league) this year."

--They have at least three first basemen (Guerrero, Marshall and Stubbs), each of whom could start on several teams.

Guerrero, of course, has yet to be heard from. But Marshall and Stubbs also want to stake a claim at first base. Stubbs already has said he would not mind a trade if he doesn't start somewhere for the Dodgers.

And Marshall reported Wednesday with this comment: "I don't make the rules, but I know I'll work hard and I will be one of the everyday players. If not, like I said, I'll be somewhere else (this season)."

--They have two players vying for second base (Sax and Mariano Duncan) and at least two at third base (Sax and Jeff Hamilton). If Hamilton proves he can hit major league pitching, Sax will shift to second. But if Duncan can hit for a decent average, then Sax might be in baseball limbo.

Said Sax: "If Hamilton plays good at third, where do I go? Back to second. And that's fine. I'm not saying I don't have to work. I like competing, and I've never thought I'm totally secure. Trade (talk) doesn't bother me, because most of that stuff is bogus, anyway."

Said Duncan: "We've got a great ballclub in the clubhouse there. This is really the first year I've had to compete for my job. It's different, but it makes you concentrate on spring training more."

Said Hamilton: "My name doesn't come up a lot from them, but I know what they are looking for from me."

Claire reclined in his golf cart behind the batting cage and talked about the Dodgers' newly acquired depth.

"I am concerned about the balance of the ballclub, but the most important thing is that we have a lot of talent," he said. "Good athletes. When you look at the (past) teams that won for the Dodgers, you had outstanding athletes with winning attitudes.

"My objective is to have all of that blend together so that when we leave the spring, the team attitude would be a positive attitude. Will we get there, I don't know. I don't think it's an easy path, coming off two years where you finished 16 games under .500. There is no easy way."

Gibson, meanwhile, completed his first workout as a Dodger and tried to deflect the pressure and celebrity that has followed him after his free-agent signing in late January.

"I don't, by any means, feel like I'm going to be a savior with the Dodgers," Gibson said. "I've just got to play my game.

"We have a long time to try to get our . . . together. A lot of guys won't be around here then. We start out (in spring training) easygoing and end up intense."

This spring, though, it seems the intensity among a few Dodger players already is at midseason form.

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