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National League : Garvey Rediscovers the Long Ball

When Steve Garvey hit only eight home runs last season for the San Diego Padres, his lowest total since he was a part-timer for the Dodgers in 1973, there were plenty of people who said Garvey’s days as a power hitter were over at the advanced age of 36.

It had been four years, after all, since Garvey had hit as many as 20 home runs in a season, and seven since he hit a club-record 33 home runs for the Dodgers in 1977.

But here it is June, and Garvey already has a dozen home runs in the Padres’ first 73 games. Only four players in the National League--Pedro Guerrero, Dale Murphy, Jack Clark and Dave Parker--have more.

What accounts for the renewed power? Well, the forearms aren’t any bigger, so there must be another explanation. Garvey, who hit No. 12 off Steve Howe of the Dodgers last Wednesday, offered a few reasons.

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“My role has changed,” he said. “Last year with (Alan) Wiggins and Tony (Gwynn) ahead of me, often I’d come up with a man on third and nobody out, or first and third, one out. I knew if I hit the ball the other way (to right field), I’d get the run in.

“I’ve learned through the years that there are other ways to get the run in--the hit-and-run, a ground ball, even the bunt. Hitting more the other way helped us.”

But Wiggins, who stole a club-record 70 bases last season, went into a drug rehabilitation clinic in April and was traded to the Baltimore Orioles last week. And that, Garvey said, forced a change in his approach.

“We don’t have the speed this year,” he said. “We have a more mature lineup--with people like Garry Templeton and Terry Kennedy and Graig Nettles--and we have to hit with more power.”

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In 1983, Garvey dislocated the thumb on his right hand and missed the last 62 games of the season. He acknowledged that the thumb might have bothered him last season, as well.

“It never hurt last year, I never felt it,” Garvey said. “But in retrospect, it might not have been as strong as it was.”

Padre Manager Dick Williams said: “Even though Steve probably won’t admit it, the thumb had to be bothering him last year.”

One other factor, according to Garvey: “I’ve been following a good, solid weight program every other day since March 1.”

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Add Padres: Garvey wasn’t surprised at the rude treatment San Diego hitters gave Orel Hershiser and Fernando Valenzuela last week.

“That makes a pretty good statement about this team,” Garvey said. “Whether it’s (Mario) Soto, Orel or (Dwight) Gooden--we beat Gooden in New York--we seem to play as well, if not better, against quality pitchers. We have a lot of good contact hitters.”

The Padres also defeated Soto, 3-0, Saturday night.

A few numbers will demonstrate a significant difference between the lineups of the Dodgers and Padres. Pedro Guerrero leads the Dodgers with 40 RBIs. Only two other Dodgers have as many as 25 RBIs: Mike Marshall, who is on the disabled list, has 32 RBIs, and Mike Scioscia has 27.

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The Padres, on the other hand, have three players with 39 or more--Kennedy (43), Kevin McReynolds (43) and Garvey (39)--and three more with 25 or more--Carmelo Martinez (34), Templeton (27) and the Jerry Royster/Tim Flannery combination (34).

Nettles is the only Padre regular hitting under .260; the Dodgers have five regulars hitting under .250.

“That’s the way the chemistry is on this ballclub,” said Kurt Bevacqua, who has come off the Padre bench to hit two grand slams this season.

“There’s somebody new every day picking us up. We have guys on this team capable of carrying our club, but we’re not the type of team that requires something like that.

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“They (the Dodgers) have a few guys over there having a tough time at the plate. And bad times at the plate can be as contagious as hitting can be. It seems to carry over to other players.

“And that puts pressure on the pitchers. They try a little harder to make the perfect pitch.”


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