Dotson Resumes Role as White Sox Stopper
No one would take being yanked out of a game harder than Chicago White Sox pitcher Richard Dotson during the early stages of his career.
The promising right-hander was known to throw his glove and kick the nearest water cooler in anger when he was be removed midway through a contest. The usual reason was wildness.
But Dotson got both his temper and his pitches under control and, in 1983, he became a 22-game winner. During last year’s White Sox slide from division champions to fifth place, Dotson was 11-4 up to the All-Star break but then lost four in a row and wound up 14-15 for the year. He led the staff in complete games with 14 and for much of the season was the team’s most effective pitcher.
Dotson faced the challenge this year of not only helping to resurrect the Sox fortunes in 1985 but assuming the role of stopper on the staff. But an injury sidelined him early and it wasn’t until the season was nearly two months old that he got into the groove which made him the club’s No. 1 pitcher--and the club’s lone All-Star representative--one year ago.
“I didn’t feel any added pressure,” Dotson says of coming back to be the club’s stopper, “Not really. We’ve got a tough guy to replace in the rotation and I don’t know if anyone can.”
The guy Dotson was referring to is LaMarr Hoyt, the burly right-hander who was shipped to San Diego in the off-season for three Padres including left-hander Tim Lollar.
Hoyt, the 1983 Cy Young Award winner, was the workhorse of the staff in the past several seasons. He was also the club’s winningest pitch “I was sorry to see LaMarr go because he is a friend,” Dotson says. “He did pitch a lot of innings for us. But I’ve been pitching 250 or 260 innings the past two years and I want to be able to go the full nine.”
Dotson doesn’t figure to approach that number because of his April hand injury and because it took him time to work back into complete game shape.
Part of the reason Dotson also was transformed from a five-inning to a nine-inning pitcher was the weakening of the Chicago bullpen, a problem that has persisted in 1985.
During his first seasons in 1980, 1981 and 1982, Dotson was removed by Manager Tony LaRussa who had either an Ed Farmer or a Dennis Lamp to bring in to keep the Sox in the game.
But as Dotson’s control got better, the Sox bullpen weakened. Last year, the club had its problems in relief and Dotson was forced to pitch more complete games.
“I don’t mind it. I want to go out there and pitch nine innings. LaMarr did the same thing,” Dotson says. “I don’t single out the bullpen or anything like that. The challenge is for us to perform better. If LaMarr isn’t here, then there is a bigger challenge. But you don’t go saying if the bullpen was better than I would be better.”
Dotson was also the subject of trade rumors after the 1984 season so it didn’t surprise him that Hoyt was dealt. Dotson said he read in one San Francisco newspaper that he was being traded to the Giants for Jeff Leonard right after the World Series.
“I thought about it and how it would be for me to be pitching near my home,” Dotson says, “but then I thought about it. I love to live in California but I don’t want to pitch there--and in San Francisco. I want to stay with the Sox.”
As Dotson goes for the remainder of 1985--even though they still have Floyd Bannister, Tom Seaver, Britt Burns and Lollar--may be a key whether the Sox will be contenders or pretenders. Dotson and Hoyt formed the best one-two pitching punch in baseball in 1983 when they combined for 46 wins and with more support last year, Dotson could have duplicated a 20-win season.
“Maybe things came a little too easy for us at the beginning of spring training one year ago,” Dotson says. “We had won the division and were great in spring training. But as quickly as we went down last year, we can go up. Our division isn’t the strongest in baseball and if we can get back to the way we played in 1983, we can move up.”
Dotson is known for one of the best changeups in the American League. His ability to get that pitch over transformed him from a hard-throwing pitcher of promise to a 22-game winner.
He also has matured on the mound, knowing how to pitch to certain hitters and not letting the disappointment of losing a 1-0 or 2-1 game affect him.
“Dot has the talent to be a 20-game winner every year,” says Manager Tony LaRussa. “He has worked hard to get to the point where he is now. He has the ability to be a stopper on this club.”
White Sox General Manager Roland Hemond says the best tribute to the 26-year old Doston, who came to the Sox from California in a deal that sent Brian Downing to the Angels in 1978, comes from other teams.
“When we talked trade, people were always asking about Richard Dotson,” Hemond says. “When scouts come up and give reports to other teams they are always recommending their teams try to get a pitcher of Dotson’s ability.”