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Dodgers Run, Angels Stumble Into Openers


The important thing, as any baseball fan will tell you, is that today both teams are 0-0.

Their exhibition records have been rendered meaningless. Spring training is officially finished, if not forgotten.

But cliches are one thing and appearances are another. And it was hard not to notice Sunday at Dodger Stadium that the Dodgers and Angels are entering 1990s opening day at vastly different gaits.

The Dodgers, who defeated the Angels, 4-2, to sweep the three-game Freeway Series for the fourth time in 21 years, are sprinting. They won six of their last seven exhibition games. Their rebuilt offense scored fewer than four runs just twice in the 12-game spring season, during which they finished 8-4.

And for a bunch of old guys, they are fairly healthy. With the exception of Kirk Gibson, their opening day lineup against the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium at 1:35 p.m. today is just as they envisioned it last January.

This includes Kal Daniels playing left field, and starter Orel Hershiser showing scant effects of the shortened spring training. Hershiser threw 80 pitches in his last workout Thursday and could translate that into as many as eight innings today.

"We are already having fun again," said catcher Rick Dempsey, whose bloop double and two RBIs Sunday led the Dodgers. "We feel like we're jelling just in time. We're getting all that old enthusiasm back."

The Angels are stumbling, having lost their last seven exhibition games. On Sunday it was announced they had lost their starting third baseman for at least a couple of days. Jack Howell's sprained left ankle will not be ready for tonight's 6 game in Anaheim against Seattle.

With shortstop Dick Schofield already on the disabled list, the left side of the infield likely will feature backups Mark McLemore and Donnie Hill. And Chili Davis' groin soreness could keep him out of the starting lineup. None of this would be so bad if the Angel pitchers hadn't accumulated a spring earned run average of 6.28.

Not that Manager Doug Rader is the least bit worried.

"What have we lost?" Rader responded when asked about the spring losing streak. "We've lost seven exhibition games. The games start tomorrow . . . I don't see anything wrong with the effort or competitiveness of our ballclub."

The Angels competed well Sunday until three Dodger doubles in a four-batter stretch in the fourth inning against starter and loser Jim Abbott broke a 1-1 tie. Jeff Hamilton doubled to left field, Mike Scioscia doubled to right to score him and--one out later--Dempsey blooped a double down the left field line, dropping it between Wally Joyner, Kent Anderson and Claudell Washington.

It was more than enough runs for Dodger starter Ramon Martinez, who was let off the hook by an Angel offense that couldn't capitalize on five walks in four innings. Kirk McCaskill was given three innings of work, and, of the Angels' six hits against five Dodger pitchers, one was by him.

"All I'm going to say is that competing against the pitching staffs of the Padres and Dodgers, I can understand our lack of offense," Rader said, referring to earlier spring losses to San Diego.

The biggest Dodger worry appears to be the health of reliever Jay Howell, who this weekend reported shoulder stiffness after throwing four scoreless innings with four strikeouts in Florida. Howell threw on the side Sunday, and the Dodgers will know more about his availability this morning.

If Howell cannot go for a couple of days, Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda will have extra right-handed relievers Don Aase and Mike Hartley at his disposal, due to the 27-man expanded rosters.

Lasorda is already at midseason form, setting a pair of Angel pitcher Bert Blyleven's shoes on fire in front of the dugout after the sixth inning Sunday. It was revenge for the pie Blyleven shoved in Lasorda's face Friday while the Dodger manager was doing a television interview.

"Right now, our enthusiasm and teamwork seems great, even better than going into last season," Mickey Hatcher observed about the Dodgers. "Of course, you never know. But we can't wait."

Angel-Dodger Notes

As expected, Mike Morgan will begin the season in the starting rotation. Dodger pitching coach Ron Perranoski confirmed Sunday that Morgan would start Friday in Houston, and John Wetteland would begin the season in the bullpen. That, of course, could change in a couple of weeks. "Both guys are capable, but Mike is a little more experienced. He had the great first half last year, and we felt we would go with that," Perranoski said. "But John is an important member of the staff, and you never know what happens down the road."

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