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BASEBALL / DAILY REPORT : DODGERS : Benzinger Puts On Impressive Show

March 02, 1992|BILL PLASCHKE

Todd Benzinger raised some eyebrows Sunday when, after hitting left-handed throughout most of a batting practice game, he suddenly moved to the right side of the plate.

And promptly hit a home run.

"He has a great swing from both sides of the plate," Manager Tom Lasorda said. "He's a real good-looking player."

Benzinger, who was acquired from the Kansas City Royals for Chris Gwynn this winter, must play well enough to warrant what could be a platoon role at first base with Kal Daniels or Eric Karros if Daniels or Karros proves he can be the everyday starter.

"I guess I'm the proven commodity here--they want to see what happens with Kal's defense and Eric's bat before they make a decision," Benzinger said. "I'm not sure they got me to play 150 games anyway. It's like, if the other guys don't work out, they have me."

Benzinger was pleased with his play Sunday because he is trying to improve a home run rate that has declined since he averaged one homer every 28 at-bats as a rookie for the Boston Red Sox in 1987. Last season he hit one every 139 at-bats.

He hit 17 home runs for Boston in 1989, but he hit only eight in the past two seasons combined.

Dodger hitters are discovering Pedro Martinez's fastball.

After only 17 of his 87 batting practice pitches were hit out of the infield in fair territory Saturday, Martinez was asked if he was tired.

"Tired? Now? No way," he said. "I cannot get tired until I get $5 million."

Is he nervous?

"Why should I be nervous?" he said. "I am doing what I like, and they are going to pay me for it."

Kip Gross, the new relief pitcher from the Cincinnati Reds who has impressed the Dodgers with his hard throwing, prepared for spring training in an unusual way.

He threw baseballs against a brick wall.

"Where I live, there just isn't anybody I would want to pitch with," said Gross, a right-hander from Gering, Neb. "Because of the way my ball moves, sometimes finding somebody to catch me is more trouble than it's worth."

Although he was considered a minor part of the deal that also brought Eric Davis to the Dodgers, stranger things have happened than Gross making this team as the 11th pitcher. In 34 major league games, including nine starts, he is 6-4 with a 3.52 earned-run average.

Peter O'Malley, Dodger president, has told friends he expects to be released from the hospital early next week. He has been recovering from a respiratory infection. . . . The Dodger regulars showed their power potential Sunday during three batting-practice games of nine innings each. Darryl Strawberry hit eight home runs, including two that cleared the right field scoreboard and another that bounced off the base of the scoreboard. Davis and Harris had five home runs each, while Daniels and Karros added four homers apiece. . . . Also impressive was shortstop Jose Offerman, who hit numerous line drives and homered in two of his last four at-bats.

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