Baseball will take a while to get back in the swing
Los Angeles — For the first two weeks after the start of baseball's Second Season, the original having been interrupted by a 50-day strike, play is probably going to be inferior to what is generally expected at the big league level.
"I don't see how it can be any other way," explained Steve Garvey, the all-star first baseman of the Los Angeles Dodgers and a collector of 200 or more hits in six of his last seven seasons. "Fifty days without hitting under pressure against major league pitching is a long time."
"Physically I worked as hard as I could on my own during the strike," Garvey continued. "When it comes to stamina, I don't think I lost much. But any hitter who goes even two or three day without live competition is going to feel it in his timing, his rhythm, and his confidence.
"I did some hitting during the strike -- against other Dodger players and in the batting cage against the machine. But game conditions are what keep a hitter sharp, and I figure it's going to take me at least two weeks to start to feel comfortable again at the plate. And most players I've talked with seem to feel pretty much the same way."
Pressed to comment further, Garvey replied: "I won't go so far as to say that there won't be exceptions -- that a few pitchers and a few hitters won't come back and perform like they've never been away. The individual factor is there and it is going to show up in some cases.
"But basically guys who never hit much in spring training are probably going to have the same problems when we start league play again on Aug. 10. We all need more than the week or so we've been given to get ready, not physically, but because nobody's timing is apt to return that quickly."
According to Dodger reliever Terry Forster, an 11-year veteran of both the American and National Leagues, pitchers are going to have the edge for a while for the same reasons Garvey mentioned.
"One thing I've always noticed about spring training is that most hitters need a couple of weeks before they begin to generate any bat speed," Forster said. "My feeling is that any pitcher who throws hard and can also get the ball over the plate is going to do extremely well in the next few weeks."
"Now that doesn't necessarily mean that we'll see many pitchers go the distance," Terry continued. "In fact, I don't think any of them in the starting rotation are going to want to work more than five or six innings for a while.
"But as long as there are guys like me in the bullpen, it won't make any difference. Right now I feel like I could pitch two innings a day for two or three consecutive days without hurting myself. And I think probably everyone else on our bullpen staff feels the same way."
Asked if he felt that managers would be doing things differently during baseball's Second Season, skipper Tommy Lasorda replied:
"No question about it. Every manager will be watching things a lot closer than he normally would at this time in the season. We don't have that many games left, so mistakes are going to count double.
"Everybody will be studying their pitchers to make sure that they aren't trying to do more than they should. It is quite possible that all of your second-half winners, if baseball does go to a split season, will be the teams with the best bullpens."
In the area of baseball and fan support, Lasorda had this to say: "I love baseball. To me it's important and a very big part of my life. But I also know that the world can live without it, and did during the 50 days we were on strike. We made some people angry, and for that I'm sorry.
"But now that the season is back, look at it this way. Most low-pay guys with a family need time on the weekends to relax. Baseball is still the only game where a man and his wife and their three children can buy five tickets for
"That man may be upset with baseball right now. But wait until he looks at the price of a movie or some other sporting event and see how fast he comes out to the ballpark. And he'll be back again because he knows he will have good time."
One thing the baseball strike did for Fernando Valenzuela, the Dodgers' rookie pitching sensation, was to give him the time he needed to take driving lessons. Fernando takes his automobile license test next week, and L.A. teammate Pepe Frias, responding to rumors that Valenzuela ran daily but didn't throw at all during the strike, told reporters:
"I know that Fernando throw the ball a lot, because I was the guy who caught him. He OK and he will continue to win."