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Baseball / Ross Newhan : Center Fielder Dodgers Need Might Be One They Traded

June 18, 1989|Ross Newhan

A factor in the revitalization of the Baltimore Orioles, particularly recently, has been the performances of a leadoff-hitting center fielder of the type the Dodgers have been looking for--both before and since moving Kirk Gibson to the leadoff role.

The Oriole in question began a weekend series against the Oakland Athletics batting .333 for the season, .407 in his last 16 games and .390 as a leadoff hitter since May 28.

In addition, according to scouts and club officials, he has played brilliantly in the field.

His name? Mike Devereaux.

His organization until last winter? The Dodgers.

Gibson has had a catalytic impact on the Dodgers but don't be fooled. It still seems to be an offense that needs help. While Gibson was going 6 for 15 in his first five games as leadoff hitter, the rest of the Dodgers batted .210. The team average in that span was only .229.

St. Louis Cardinal Manager Whitey Herzog offered an analysis.

"They can't score like they did without Pedro in the lineup," he said, referring to Pedro Guerrero. "They made him out to be a bad guy, but he was the guy who made the lineup work."

Guerrero was second in the National League with 48 runs batted in through Thursday and was hitting .420 with runners in scoring position.

The Montreal Expos are crying foul and threatening to file tampering charges against Herzog for comments he made about Expo pitcher Mark Langston, who is eligible for free agency at the end of the season.

Herzog said that Langston might never lose a game if he pitched in spacious Busch Stadium, adding, "It's a crying shame he's not pitching in our ballpark."

And in the wake of the tampering threats, Herzog didn't back down.

"What did I say that was wrong?" he asked. "I only said it was a shame he's not pitching in our park and it is. We tried to get him (from the Seattle Mariners) since February and offered some hellacious deals. I hope (the Expos) do file. I'd like to talk to the commissioner about this."

The Expos opened a weekend series against the Chicago Cubs with a 12-7 record since Langston's acquisition strengthened the rotation and lifted team spirit. They are 3-1 in games Langston has started, and he starts again today.

Despite warnings from a therapist not to get upset again about the All-Star vote, the absurdities mount, almost too numerous to mention.

Consider the middle of the Texas Rangers' lineup, baseball's most productive combination. Rafael Palmeiro, Ruben Sierra and Julio Franco had combined to drive in 144 runs, score 124 and deliver 86 extra-base hits before a weekend series in New York.

Each was among individual leaders in several categories, yet Palmeiro was seventh in outfield voting, Sierra was not even among the top 16 outfielders and Franco, leading the American League in RBIs--with three more than Sierra--and second in hitting, was only third in the second base voting.

Said Sierra, who could have been speaking for all three: "I've got to be in the All-Star game. Nobody is doing better than I am. If you don't like me, you're not watching what's going on."

Then there's Jose Canseco, the No. 1 vote getter among American League outfielders, even though he hasn't played this year.

"I wouldn't be embarrassed to go just because I haven't played," he said. "It would be great, in fact. I'd love to go again."

Canseco is expected back at about the time of the All-Star break and will be on the American League team if he's fit and among the top three outfielders in the fan vote, Tony LaRussa, Canseco's manager with the A's and manager of the AL team, said. LaRussa said he would not take Canseco if he's not voted to the team.

The Rangers' Jeff Russell is expected to follow Dennis Eckersley as the only pitchers to make All-Star appearances as both starters and relievers.

Russell was there last year as a starter. Now he is 16 for 18 in save opportunities and leading the American League in that category, having replaced Mitch Williams as the Texas relief ace. Williams, traded to the Chicago Cubs, has already tied the Cubs' record for saves by a left-hander in a season with 15.

Said Russell of a role he has come to know and love: "When it's the eighth or ninth innings and the opponent sees me run in, I want them to say, 'Here comes Russell, the game's over.' I want to put that thought in their minds."

The Expos and San Francisco Giants are said to remain hot on the trail of Steve Bedrosian, the Philadelphia Phillies' relief pitcher who has been virtually useless to the Phillies because their pathetic starters can seldom reach the late innings with a lead.

Through 61 games, Bedrosian had only eight save opportunities.

"Everyone is talking about Steve being a luxury," Manager Nick Levya said. "Now he's going to be like any other reliever. If we have a lead in the sixth or seventh innings, he's going to get the ball. He's going to be his own setup man."

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