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Farrell Is Angels' Bright Spot

April 11, 1993|BOB NIGHTENGALE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It won't go down as one of his finest pitching performances, and fond memories rarely emerge from defeat, but it was a night Angel starter John Farrell will treasure as long as he lives.

Farrell will be listed in the box score as the losing pitcher in the Angels' 5-2 defeat Saturday to the Detroit Tigers. When he walked off the field after 4 2/3 innings, there were no standing ovations, and barely a warm applause from the crowd of 24,572 at Anaheim Stadium.

Yet, deep inside, Farrell finally captured a feeling that he feared would never be possible.

He's back, and pitching in the major leagues.

Pitching for the first time in a big league game since Sept. 21, 1990, when he played for the Cleveland Indians, Farrell tired quicker than he hoped. He walked six of the final 11 batters he faced, but struck out five overall, including Cecil Fielder and Travis Fryman two times apiece.

It might not have been the glorious game that makes for a movie, but for the Angels, it's the start to a dramatic comeback.

"You saw the reason why we signed him," Angel Manager Buck Rodgers said. "He's a bulldog. You don't sign a guy for ($200,000) to rehabilitate unless you have something inside.

"Call it guts, intestinal fortitude, whatever. He has it."

Farrell easily could have given up this game after undergoing two major elbow operations that sidelined him for two years, but he refused to let the dream die. He knew that one day, even after Cleveland no longer had interest, he'd return.

"I've prepared long hours physically and mentally to be here, and tonight I finally realized that dream," said Farrell, who flew his wife in from Cleveland for the occasion. "People from the outside view it as big event, but for me, each step is a big one."

Farrell, who defeated the Tigers in his major league debut Aug. 21, 1987, cruised along during the first two innings before running into problems. Dan Gladden lined a one-out double in the third inning that had center fielder Chad Curtis and left fielder Luis Polonia running into one another.

Tony Phillips followed with a single to center, and stole second base. That brought up Lou Whitaker, who had only three career hits off Farrell, but two home runs.

Despite not seeing one another for a few years, apparently little has changed. Whitaker hit a 1-and-1 fastball into the right-field seats, the first homer Farrell has given up at Anaheim Stadium in four career starts.

The Tigers built a 4-1 lead in the fifth inning, when Farrell forced in a run by walking Rob Deer. Farrell was pulled from the game, and left-handed reliever Ken Patterson prevented the Tigers from breaking the game open by inducing a groundball from Mickey Tettleton.

"He struggled, but for all the struggling, we were still in the ballgame," Rodgers said. "He was probably as nervous out there tonight as when he was a rookie. As he goes along, he'll get more confident. Now, it's like being brand-new in the league."

Said Farrell: "I was just struggling with my control. Tonight, it seemed like I wasn't trusting my pitches as much as I should have."

The Angel bullpen may have been the most encouraging aspect of the evening. Patterson and Chuck Crim pitched 3 1/3 scoreless innings, and it wasn't until Fielder's two-out, run-scoring single in the ninth off Gene Nelson that the Tigers scored again. Remarkably, it was only the second hit Fielder has ever managed against Nelson in 21 career at-bats.

The Angels pecked away at the Tigers throughout the game, putting runners on base during five of the last six innings, but failed to take advantage. They had no hits in any of their five opportunities with runners in scoring position.

"The bullpen kept us in the ballgame all night," Rodgers said. "We just couldn't get the big hit to get us over the hump."

There will be days, though, when Farrell will be on top of his game again, Rodgers said. Those will be the games when two runs might be enough.

"Right now my goal is to be talking to you after a game in late September or October," Farrell said. "That would mean I was healthy enough to stay in the rotation all year.

"Now that would be something.

* JEROME WALTON

The Angel outfielder escapes injury as he wrecks his Corvette in a one-car accident. C5

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