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DODGERS : Offerman's First Error Is No Cause for Alarm

March 18, 1993|CHRIS DUFRESNE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

VERO BEACH, Fla. — You knew it would happen.

In his 12th game, on a rainy Wednesday, in the sixth inning of an 8-5 exhibition victory over the Philadelphia Phillies, shortstop Jose Offerman committed his first error of spring training.

But guess what?

Offerman's miscue did not sound alarm bells around the complex. Ironically, the impact of his error was almost devoured on a day of sparkling Dodger defense.

In the top of the fifth, Offerman made a spectacular putout after ranging far to his left to field a ground ball.

Earlier, second baseman Jody Reed ranged far to his left to make a putout.

First baseman Eric Karros stabbed a hot grounder with a backhand.

At third base, Tim Wallach made a nice stop to start a double play.

Defense carried the day.

In his fourth spring start, Orel Hershiser gave up five more wind-blown runs in five innings, but afterward was more interested in talking about the work of others.

"The most exciting thing about today was after I threw the ball," Hershiser said. "I turned around and they were catching it. There was some outstanding defense."

For a sinkerball pitcher who relies on ground-ball outs, this is a significant development. The Dodgers led the league with 174 errors last season, Offerman leading the way with 42 at shortstop.

But the off-season acquisitions of Wallach and Reed seem to have settled baseball's worst fielding infield.

It put Offerman's error in a different context.

Joe Amalfitano, the Dodgers' third base coach who also works with infielders, said it was significant that Offerman approached him later and explained what had gone wrong on a ball he fielded cleanly but one-hopped to first base.

It was an old habit.

"He breaks his hands out in front and his body doesn't catch up," Amalfitano said. "It's encouraging to me that he realized what caused it."

Hershiser and Amalfitano credit Wallach and Reed with flanking Offerman with confidence and experience.

"Tim's really outstanding," Hershiser said. "He's out there pumping us up, telling us where to play. He's an encourager. He's the captain of the defense. He knows the league inside and out. Who knows the league better than the guy at third?"

Wallach, 35, has won five Gold Gloves. Reed, 30, has a .979 fielding percentage. "Those guys are talking," Amalfitano said. "When something goes haywire, Jody stops and talks to the team. Jody Reed and Tim Wallach know what to do with their experience."

Hershiser said he was excited to be named the team's opening-day starter against the Florida Marlins.

"On a personal basis, it's a pretty big feat because of where I came from," Hershiser said. "It's a pretty historic game, against an expansion team in the first real game in Florida. Maybe it's the final signature in the comeback, despite the fact I didn't miss a start and pitched 200 innings last year. Maybe that's the end of the story as far as the comeback."

Hershiser made 82 pitches in five innings Wednesday and said: "Does that tell you I'm strong? I'm not building into anything, I'm ready." . . . Todd Worrell threw 27 pitches in another simulated game Wednesday, facing Dave Hansen, Mike Sharperson, Mike Piazza and Henry Rodriguez. . . . Wallach, who entered Wednesday's game batting .192, went two for three with a home run and three RBIs. . . . Pitcher Chris Nichting, who was optioned to triple-A Albuquerque after the Dodgers acquired Ricy Trlicek from Toronto, will first fly to Los Angeles and have an examination on his sore right elbow.

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