Reading Eagle - April 5, 1980
Green Keeps His Word and Seven Newcomers
By John W. Smith, Asst. Sports Editor
CLEARWATER – O.K., Dallas, you weren’t kidding us. We believe you.
Throughout the winter, Dallas Green has been preaching that the farm system products had a chance to make the Philadelphia Phillies; that attitude and desire would be taken into consideration; that spring-training performance would countl that even those with little top-minor experience had a chance.
Heads nodded. That sounds good. That’s what you’d expect a new manager to say. Especially one of a complacent team.
But wait till cutdown date. The youngers will be back in the minors “so they can play every day,” and the veterans will be back.
Friday, Dallas Green proved that he just wasn’t stringing us a line. Youth was served on cutdown day.
Five rookies have made the Philadelphia roster, plus two others who made their big-league debut in Philadelphia in midseason last year, and another who’s started the last four seasons in the minors.
“If you’d have told me before the training started that we’d open with five rookies, I’d have said, “No way,” said John Vukovich, the one veteran newcomer. “But they played themselves into jobs.”
Seven of the eight newcomers are ex-Reading Phils for a record total of 12. Never before had there been more than nine.
Two of the rookies were known to have jobs – outfielder Lonnie Smith and catcher Keith Moreland, who’ll be the two top right-handed pinch-hitters. And, with the aching among the starting pitchers, midseason call-up Dickie Noles had been sure of one.
But Friday, Green kept George Vukovich, 23 and never higher than Reading, as his last outfielder and dropped Mike Anderson, 28, who has seven years experience in the bigs.
Green kept John Vukovich and Luis Aguayo, 21 and just one year out of Reading, as reserve infielders and dropped Bud Harrelson, 35, with 13 years experience.
He kept Kevin Saucier, 23, the other midseason call-up, and Scott Munninghoff, 21, never higher than Reading, as relievers and dropped Doug Bird, 30, and Rawly Eastwick, 29, who have over 10 years experience between them.
“The younger players have earned the right to play at the major-league level,” said Green. “They’ve shown me they want to be part of this team.”
“Dallas gave the younger players a good chance,” summed up George Vukovich. “With Danny Ozark, I’d bet I’d have had two or three at bats and been gone. But I got a chance to show myself.” (George got 22 at bats in regular games and hit .364.)
That Harrelson and Bird went is no surprise. Bud was only an emergency fill-in last year, obviously has his days behind him, and got hurt anyway.
Doug, though he threw well this spring (three hits in seven innings), had that 5.16 ERA from last year dogging him, and his attitude wasn’t the best.
(Bird was the one who complained at the start of the strike that he couldn’t afford to stay around.)
Anderson’s departure was surprising in that he seemed likely to stay on because of the extra spot opened when the Phils decided to go with just two catchers. But his .231 average last year and .214 this spring weren’t encouraging.
Rawly Biggest Surprise
The biggest surprise was Eastwick, not only because of his past success and possible future success with his split-finger pitch, but because his contract is guaranteed through 1982.
(“That’s why I like Paul Owens,” said Green. “He let me go with the youngers even though it might cost a lot of money.”)
The Phils are hopeful somebody else picks up Eastwick’s contract. Also, Bird is guaranteed half his salary for two years. Owens is trying to place both of them and Anderson. Harrelson is released.
“I’d put Rawly in two situations where we’d want him to do the job in the regular season, “ said Green, talking of Rawly’s last two outings. “He gave up a homer in one and took us out of the other with a couple of runs.
“I thought late last year he showed the drive, competitiveness and ability we were looking for, but I didn’t see it this spring.”
Also, Dallas obviously got tired waiting for the split-finger to get better.
“I said both last spring and this spring that I thought Rawly Eastwick was ready to take hold,” said Green, “but I was wrong.”
O.K., Dallas, we won’t always believe you.
The Philadelphia Roster (ex-Reading Phils asterisked)
Pitchers – Carlton, Ruthven, Christenson, *Lerch, *Noles, McGraw, Reed, LaGrow, *Saucier, *Munninghoff, Espinosa (DL)
Catchers - *Boone, *Moreland
Infielders – Rose, Trillo, *Bowa, *Schmidt, *J. Vukovich, *Aguayo
Outfielders - *Luzinski, Maddox, McBride, Gross, Unser, Smith, *G. Vukovich