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Guerrero Moves to Center Field but Dodgers Lose to Expos 4-2

Times Staff Writer

On the last day of the 1984 season, Pedro Guerrero said he’d like to be the Dodger center fielder.

It took him until June, but Guerrero finally got his wish Saturday night. Once more, the Dodgers abandoned their grand experiment of converting Guerrero into an infielder, although it was concern over his bat, not his glove, that prompted the latest move.

It didn’t matter where Guerrero played or that he hit his first Dodger Stadium homer as the Dodgers scored just twice in 11 innings to lose, 4-2, to the Montreal Expos in front of 41,058 fans.

The Expos, held to five hits in the first 10 innings by Jerry Reuss and Ken Howell, broke through in the 11th, when they loaded the bases with no outs against Howell on two full-count walks and U.L. Washington’s bunt single.

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Howell, who had worked two perfect innings, struck out Andre Dawson, but Hubie Brooks punched a ball through the right side of a drawn-in infield for a two-run single and Tim Wallach followed with another RBI hit.

Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda benched Ken Landreaux, hitting an astonishing .080 (4 for 50, no home runs, one RBI) at home, sent Guerrero to the outfield and shifted Bob Bailor to third.

“It’s nothing permanent,” Lasorda said. “We’ll have to see how he does.”

If Lasorda was expecting instant results, he had to be disappointed. Bailor, batting in the No. 8 spot, had as many hits (2) as Guerrero, who struck out on three pitches with the bases loaded in the first inning.

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Greg Brock followed Guerrero by grounding into a double play, and the Dodger offense was off and sputtering.

Mike Marshall, the only Dodger driving in runs these days, accounted for the Dodger run in the fourth on a force play following singles by Guerrero and Brock.

But after the fourth, the Dodgers’ only hits off Expo starter David Palmer and reliever Gary Lucas were singles by Bailor in the seventh and 10th.

Expo-beater Reuss, out to improve on a 20-5 lifetime record against Montreal, limited the Expos to five hits in eight innings. But one was Vance Law’s first home run of the season, which Guerrero pursued before colliding with the center-field fence.

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For only the second time this season, the Dodgers played back-to-back games without committing an error.

The Dodgers, who stole five bases on the Expos Friday, started out with similar intentions Saturday, as Steve Sax stole second in the first inning. But Expos catcher Mike Fitzgerald threw out Mariano Duncan in the second and R.J. Reynolds in the sixth, which effectively stalled the Dodger running game.

Last season, Guerrero lasted at third until July 3, when he was moved back to right field. It was only with a strong September (.398, 5 homers, 24 RBIs) that he was able to salvage the season offensively.

He came into Saturday’s game with three hits in his previous 23 at-bats. His last extra-base hit was a double on May 21 in Montreal; his last home run came the day before, also against the Expos.

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Since May 9, Guerrero had driven in just three runs and had only five extra-base hits. His average with runners in scoring position this season: .152 (5 for 33). And his slugging percentage of .393 is well below his percentages of the last three seasons: .462 in 1984, .531 in ’83, .536 in ’82.

Lasorda said the decision to put Guerrero in center was his.

“We hope he starts hitting the ball and relaxes a little bit,” Lasorda said. “When he went out there last season, he started hitting better.

“We need his bat. We need it desperately.”

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Asked whether he intended to leave Guerrero in the outfield, Lasorda said: “We’ll see. We don’t know what we’re going to do with it. We’ll have to see how long it lasts.

“Nothing is permanent. We’ll have to check and see how he does.”

Despite Guerrero’s nine errors, Lasorda said he was pleased with his play at third.

“He did a good job, and I commend Pete for that,” Lasorda said. “He knew we wanted him to play third base, that we felt he’d be an asset to the ballclub if he played there.

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“As much as he wanted to play the outfield, he still did it, just like (Mike) Schmidt moving to first base for the Phillies. He may not have liked it, but he did it.

“We know Pete’s a good hitter, and he didn’t forget how to hit. Not having to think about his defense, maybe that will help him.”

Guerrero said he didn’t learn of the switch until Lasorda told him before the game.

“I was kind of surprised,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting it. But the way I’m hitting, they probably wanted to try something different. They’ve tried everything else, why not that? They don’t want to wait too long this year.

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“Last year was different. I got off to a (bad) start at the plate and in the field. So far, I haven’t done too bad at third base.

“I didn’t go to them (about moving to the outfield). I said, Fine, whatever they want me to play, I’ll play. I don’t care, I just want to play.”

Dodger Notes The Dodgers are giving infielder Mike Ramsey his release today. Manager Tom Lasorda broke the news to Ramsey before Saturday’s game. Lasorda also met with pitcher Tom Brennan, presumably to tell him he will be sent to Albuquerque when Bob Welch is activated, although Lasorda said a decision has not yet been made. Ramsey played in nine games for the Dodgers, batting .115. Brennan was 1-3 with a 7.39 ERA . . . Welch, who pitched seven innings for Vero Beach Friday night, returned here Saturday. “He has no problems,” said team therapist Pat Screnar, referring to the strained ligament in his right elbow. “He feels fine.” Screnar said Welch is 100%. He’ll probably make his first start next weekend in Atlanta.


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