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BASEBALL EXTRA | DODGER REPORT : NOTES

Piazza Can Take a Bow on Defense

May 02, 1997|BOB NIGHTENGALE

Catcher Mike Piazza has terrorized the National League with his bat ever since he joined the Dodgers. Now he is proving to be lethal with his arm.

Piazza has made such dramatic improvement that teams have become reluctant to test his arm. He has thrown out 10 of 28 baserunners trying to steal.

"I am throwing better," Piazza said. "But the pitchers finally are giving me a chance to throw guys out. That makes a huge difference, believe me."

A year ago, Piazza threw out only 26 of 157 runners trying to steal.

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Piazza, who aggravated a thigh injury Wednesday and sat out Thursday's game in Philadelphia, is questionable for today's game.

"I'm sick of these nagging little injuries," Piazza said. "I'm sick of the training room. Fortunately, it's not severe, and I should be 100% in three to four days."

Center fielder Brett Butler also sat out Thursday's game because of tendinitis in his left shoulder and is questionable for tonight's game.

"We might have to give it a couple of days," Butler said. "We'll have to wait and see."

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Third baseman Todd Zeile enjoyed returning to Veterans Stadium, where he played most of last season, hitting .280 with 20 homers and 80 RBIs before being traded to the Baltimore Orioles.

Zeile went three for seven with a homer and four RBIs in the two-game series with the Phillies.

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Tom Prince is showing once again that he is one of the most capable backup catchers in baseball.

The Dodgers are 14-5 in the 19 games Prince has started the last two seasons, 3-1 this year.

"It's nice when you can put a guy in there like that and he does a great job," Manager Bill Russell said. "He's the perfect guy for that role."

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