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Russell Still Looking for Closure

September 04, 1997|JASON REID

Watching the bullpen in the ninth inning on TV Tuesday night must have seemed like a nightmare to Dodger fans, and the view from the visitors' bench was no less gut-wrenching. Especially for Manager Bill Russell.

Russell tried just about everything--and everyone--he could to hang on to a five-run lead, but nothing worked as the Rangers scored six runs and rallied for a 13-12 victory. The performance was uncharacteristic of Dodger relievers, who are among the National League's best.

But with the final month of the regular season here and the San Francisco Giants close behind, there is reason for concern about the bullpen. How much, though, Russell isn't certain.

"You can't go by what happened [Tuesday night]," Russell said. "Everyone pitched badly and that's just not something we've had happen very often.

"But you've got to have a [closer]. Our [closer] is struggling now and everyone knows that."

That would be Todd Worrell, who blew his ninth save opportunity and was charged with the loss for the second consecutive game. Russell removed Worrell after he recorded one out in the final inning against the Rangers, a move brought on by Worrell's problems since the beginning of August.

Although Worrell doesn't deserve all the blame for the bullpen's latest breakdown, Russell for the first time Wednesday acknowledged he is losing confidence in his closer. Worrell is 2-6 with 33 saves and a 5.64 ERA.

"I don't care who you are, if you're not playing well or pitching well, you can't go with people who are not doing the job," Russell said. "You have to put the people out there who are going to give you the results."

Worrell's problems aside, the bullpen has been a source of Dodger strength. The group has a combined record of 21-18 with 41 saves and a 3.14 ERA. Darren Hall has the only other blown save.

However, Russell doesn't have many options with his closer situation at this point. September is not the month to audition closers when you're in a division race. And it's not as if anyone is lobbying for the job.

So Worrell is still the Dodgers' closer--for the most part.

"It's tough to put a guy in that role all of a sudden," Russell said. "Even if a guy has a good arm, it's tough to get those last three outs. That's why closers get the big bucks for one inning of work.

"What you do is you try different things, like bringing in Scott Radinsky [Tuesday night] to pitch the ninth. We're going to look at certain situations and see what we can do."


Outfielder Roger Cedeno, on the disabled list because of a fractured left big toe, is scheduled to undergo surgery Monday at Centinela Medical Center to remove bone spurs from the toe and is expected to sit out the rest of the season.

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