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BASEBALL DAILY REPORT : Busch Trying to Fit In

February 19, 1996|BOB NIGHTENGALE

The worst should be over.

The ridicule, the disdain and the hostilities probably will exist only as ugly memories.

Dodger third baseman Mike Busch says he only wants to be known as a major-league baseball player who's looking for a job.

Busch, called up to the Dodgers last August, was ostracized by his teammates for being a spring-training replacement player a year ago. It was a difficult decision, Busch said. Yet the $10,000 bonus and guarantee of a $10,000-a-month job was too appealing to pass up.

Busch still has no regrets over the decision, saying he badly needed the money. Now he seeks forgiveness and friendship.

"It was a very difficult period," Busch said. "The thing that kept me going throughout that time was being able to focus on my family. And the fans, wow, they were great. I couldn't believe the great support.

"I ended up getting 400 to 500 letters supporting me. They ranged from a couple sentences to three-page letters. It was touching."

Busch was stunned in the off-season when informed that he wasn't voted a playoff share by his teammates. The voting, consisting only of players who had been with the team the entire season, was quite generous with everyone else. They gave veteran Brett Butler--who joined the team 11 days earlier than Busch on Aug. 18--two-thirds of a share worth $9,274.

"The way I heard it was that they decided I got my playoff share in spring training," Busch said. "Hey, if that's what they decided, so be it. What's done is done. Just say I'm happy to be here."

Busch, who hit .235 with three homers and six runs batted in in 13 games last season, starts this spring as a strong candidate to make the team. Busch, who played in the Mexican Winter League, can play third base, first base and left field. Besides, the Dodgers need a right-handed power hitter off the bench.

"The best thing that happened last year is that I think I proved I can play at this level," Busch said. "I'm a better player now. And now, I plan to make the most out of this chance."


Pitching coach Dave Wallace, who had hip-replacement surgery during the winter, eased his recovery by bringing along a special assistant this spring. His name is Sandy Koufax. "When Sandy talks," Wallace said, "people listen. Not too bad having a Hall of Famer around, huh?" Koufax spent 20 minutes Sunday working with pitcher Mike Harkey. . . . Pitcher Ramser Correa, who's on the 40-man roster for the first time, signed a one-year contact that will pay him $109,000 if he makes the major leagues.

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