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BASEBALL EXTRA | DODGER REPORT : NOTES

For Starters, Russell Has Pitching Woes

September 12, 1997|JASON REID and STEVE SPRINGER

The final days of the season are here and the Dodgers are . . . still searching for answers?

With only 16 regular-season games remaining, the Dodgers are in a first-place tie with the San Francisco Giants atop the National League West and are suddenly concerned about their starting pitching.

Manager Bill Russell also isn't especially confident in closer Todd Worrell, and the Dodgers open a seven-game trip--including a two-game showdown with the Giants next Wednesday and Thursday--tonight against Houston, the Central Division leader. Other than that, the Dodgers are doing just fine.

"We know we have to stay focused--no one has to remind us," second baseman Eric Young said.

Leave it to the Atlanta Braves to temper the Dodgers' positive vibes. The Dodgers were feeling good until the team with the best record in the league swept a two-game series at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Hideo Nomo continued to struggle with a poor outing Monday against Florida, and Ramon Martinez was hit hard in his second consecutive start Wednesday. Add Worrell's problems, and the supposedly pitching-rich Dodgers don't seem quite as wealthy these days.

"We need our starters to get past the fourth or fifth inning," said Russell, whose team has lost three in a row.

Executive Vice President Fred Claire seemingly addressed the Dodgers' concerns--and tried to build a team to challenge the Braves--with his late-season power shopping in August. Claire provided more speed, improved defense and offensive flexibility while looking a lot like the executive of the year.

Now, the Dodger rotation appears as if it could use some new parts that likely won't be arriving. The group seems weary, according to someone who should know.

"Our starting pitching has been a little inconsistent lately," catcher Mike Piazza said. "They've worked hard all year and everyone is entitled to a little down time, but we need them right now."

The Braves swept the Dodgers out of the previous postseason, so this latest meeting didn't do anything for the Dodgers' psyche.

*

Infielder Paul Konerko, who batted .323, hit 37 home runs and drove in 127 runs at triple-A Albuquerque, was named minor league player of the year by Baseball America.

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