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Finley's Spring Training Anthem: Take It Easy

February 22, 1992|ROBYN NORWOOD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

MESA, Ariz. — It was a day for pitchers to practice covering first base Friday, the first day of spring workouts for the Angels' pitchers and catchers. Chuck Finley stood on the sidelines, held out of many of the drills as he recovers from surgery performed Dec. 5 on the big toe of his left foot.

"I'm starting to think my name is Take It Easy," said Finley, who is eager by nature. "That's all anybody says to me, 'Take it easy. Take it slow.' "

Finley has been throwing about 11 days, but the Angels intend to keep him off the mound at least until next week.

"We don't want him on the mound where he's favoring the toe," Manager Buck Rodgers said. "We want a healed toe when he gets on the mound."

The Angels are counting on Finley being ready for the start of the season, but even so, they enter spring training looking for at least two starting pitchers.

The ones they have--Finley, Mark Langston and Jim Abbott--are outstanding, but there are only three of them.

"Everybody sees our left-handers and Bryan Harvey in the bullpen and says, 'You've got great pitching,' " Rodgers said. "That's only 60% of it. Last year is an indication of that."

The team spent much of last season in a futile search for an effective fifth starter, even trying Fernando Valenzuela, a dismal experiment. Their fourth starter, Kirk McCaskill, struggled to a 10-19 record, then signed as a free agent with the Chicago White Sox.

"Our thinking is to try to get not only a fourth and fifth starter, but also a sixth, seventh, maybe even an eighth guy either in the bullpen or in triple-A Edmonton who could pitch," Rodgers said.

Rodgers says right-hander Joe Grahe has "a leg up" on the fourth spot, and veteran right-hander Don Robinson, a former San Francisco pitcher signed to a one-year contract in January, has the edge for the fifth spot.

Finley was 18-9 last season despite the injury to the toe on his push-off foot, which first bothered him in spring training last season. He pitched with pain during the season, and later missed a scheduled start.

When surgery was performed, it was discovered that a bone in his toe had splintered.

So Rodgers is taking the cautious approach to Finley's spring.

"If we were to lose him for the first three starts--and we don't know that we will--we have to be prepared in the eventuality that he can't tee it up," Rodgers said. "We're counting on him right now. At the same time, you've got to prepare."

First baseman Lee Stevens reported early as an injured player and worked out Friday with the pitchers and catchers, five days before the first full-squad workout Wednesday.

Stevens became the heir apparent to Wally Joyner's job when Joyner signed as a free agent with Kansas City. But after lingering soreness in his right wrist resulted in a cast being placed on the wrist for three weeks, the Angels signed Alvin Davis as insurance in case Stevens isn't healthy.

"I didn't sleep much this winter," said Stevens, 24, who has been waiting in the wings at least two years either to replace Joyner or be traded himself. "I was a little worried."

Stevens, who had the cast removed Feb. 5, said the wrist is still tender, but he did some light hitting work with new batting instructor Rod Carew.

Rodgers says Stevens still gets "first crack" at the first base job.

Hubie Brooks, the former Dodger who underwent surgery for a herniated disc in his neck in September and was acquired by the Angels in a trade with the New York Mets in December, was also expected to report early as an injured player. But Rodgers said Brooks had remained at his Chatsworth home because of flood damage to his house during the recent rains.

Brooks, who is slated to be the Angels' designated hitter, is expected "any day" Rodgers said. Rodgers said that Brooks has been taking batting practice in the Los Angeles area with Dodgers Darryl Strawberry and Eric Davis.

Angel Notes

Besides Lee Stevens and Hubie Brooks, the only other injured player asked to report was infielder Bobby Rose, who is recovering from off-season shoulder surgery and took part in workouts.

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