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Tudor Hardly Skips a Beat in Dodger Debut : Left-Hander Starts Slowly, Gets 7-2 Win

August 18, 1988|SAM McMANIS | Times Staff Writer

What a distracting few days this must have been for John Tudor, who seemingly prefers a quiet and orderly existence.

He went from preparing for a start for the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday to starting for the Dodgers Wednesday night amid much expectation in the wake of the trade that sent Pedro Guerrero to the Cardinals.

This did not figure to be conducive to optimal performance, particularly in the mind of a noted pessimist such as Tudor. But, after a rough start, Tudor made it a memorable Dodger debut, pitching a complete game in the Dodgers' 7-2 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies in front of 42,701 in Dodger Stadium.

Maybe the week's events had thrown Tudor, who had a 1.40 earned-run average in his previous four starts, slightly out of kilter Wednesday night. But, despite allowing two second-inning runs (one earned) and giving up 11 singles, Tudor's start had to rate a success. He was a hit with the fans, who chanted his name as he finished off the Phillies in the ninth inning. The victory improved Tudor's record to 7-5 and gave him his fifth complete game. It also enabled the Dodgers to remain 3 1/2 games ahead of the second-place Houston Astros in the National League West.

Although this was not Tudor at his best, it was superior to Pedro Guerrero's debut with the Cardinals. Guerrero went 0 for 3 in St. Louis' 1-0 loss to Houston.

Had he still been pitching for the Cardinals, ranked ninth in the league in offense, perhaps Tudor would not have been able to pull through on a an off night. But, Wednesday, he received nothing but support in several areas.

The Dodgers gave him five runs with which to work. John Shelby, who hit a career-high 21 home runs last season but had just 5 coming into Wednesday's game, hit a two-run home run off loser Mike Maddux in the third inning. Franklin Stubbs, Guerrero's replacement at first base against right-handed starters, had a two-run double in the first. And, in the ninth inning, Steve Sax added a two-run single to give the Dodgers 14 hits for the game. .

Defensive support also was plentiful. Although the Dodgers had two errors, one of which leading to a run, Tudor was bailed out of jams and potential jams when the Dodger infield turned three double plays.

Additional support was provided by the sellout crowd at Dodger Stadium. Polite applause was offered when Tudor took the mound in the first inning, drawing a thin smile from the stoic pitcher. Even when Tudor gave up five hits in the first two innings, not a boo was heard. And, in the ninth, Tudor received a standing ovation.

Imagine how the fans would react had they seen Tudor at his most dominating. In three previous starts against the Phillies, Tudor had a 2-0 record and an 0.37 ERA. Wednesday, he was hit consistently, if not always hard. Several well-hit line drives landed in Dodger gloves and a few tricky ground balls were deftly handled.

But, to Manager Tom Lasorda, this had to be what the Dodgers were hoping to get--a pitcher who would pitch a complete game even on an off night.

Escorted by Steve Boros, a Dodger scout, Tudor arrived in Los Angeles from St. Louis at about 2 p.m. and came directly to Dodger Stadium. He met briefly with Fred Claire, the Dodgers' executive vice president, and Manager Tom Lasorda.

Because he was pitching Wednesday night, Tudor turned down the numerous requests for pregame interviews. But Tuesday night, in an interview with St. Louis media, Tudor expressed mild disappointment with the trade.

"My heart is in St. Louis, but my arm will be in Los Angeles," Tudor said Tuesday. "I really didn't foresee it happening, although I guess this is the logical time for contending teams to do something like that.

"I don't relish the idea of going over there as the guy who's going to try to pick it up for them. I'm not going to be the one to do that. It's going to be a team effort . . . This is hard. In my mind, I'm still a Cardinal. The whole thing hasn't had a chance to set in yet."

Steve Freyer, Tudor's agent, said that Tudor is not unhappy with the trade. He said it is just that Tudor, traded four times in his nine-season career, does not welcome a change this late in his career.

"He isn't hesitant to come to L.A.," Freyer said. "He's just happy with the status quo. He feels that uprooting himself in the middle of the season is a pain in the butt, so maybe that's why does doesn't seem happy. He's an East Coast guy and he's not sure what to expect out there. I spoke with him, and he said he has no problem with Tommy or L.A."

Because of a clause in Tudor's contract, he could demand a trade at the season's end. And, if he is not traded by March 15, he could become a free agent if he chooses. Tudor, who has had shoulder and knee injuries in recent seasons, also has said he will retire at the end of next season, when his contract expires.

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