Acquired from the Oakland A’s Tuesday, Don Sutton will make his debut for the Angels Friday night against Texas.
He will initially replace Jim Slaton, but his role over the final three weeks might be redefined.
There is again a touch of tendinitis in Mike Witt’s right shoulder. There is also the ongoing trauma being experienced by rookie Kirk McCaskill and sophomore Ron Romanick.
Romanick is 0-3 over his last six starts and will pitch tonight’s finale of the three-game series with the Kansas City Royals, who rebounded from Monday night’s 7-1 loss to pound on McCaskill en route to a 6-0 victory Tuesday night.
An Anaheim Stadium crowd of 37,813 saw Kansas City regain a 1 1/2-game lead in the American League West as Hal McRae drove in two runs with a pair of doubles and Frank White and Lonnie Smith slugged two-run homers.
Southpaw Charlie Leibrandt, who has won five of his last six decisions and nine of his last 11 en route to a 15-7 record, allowed only three hits in pitching his third shutout. He walked two, struck out five.
McCaskill would have required his own shutout to compete, but it has been almost a month since he has even won.
The date was Aug. 19. He is 9-11 on the season and 1-4 over his last six starts, a span in which he’s allowed 31 earned runs in 36 innings. He’s also lost four in a row, a span in which he’s allowed 36 hits and 26 earned runs in 23 innings, an earned-run average of 10.13.
The 24-year-old right-hander worked only 4 innings against the Royals. The home runs by White and Smith were the seventh and eighth he has permitted in those 23 innings of the last four starts.
The Angels have 24 games left. McCaskill and Romanick will each start four of five of them if the rotation is not changed.
Manager Gene Mauch, asked again if he was concerned, again skirted the issue.
Talking of McCaskill, he said:
“I don’t think a rookie’s going to come into the league and win 10 or 11 in a row.
“I’d appreciate it, but it would be too much to expect.
“All he had to do tonight was pitch a shutout for a tie.”
McCaskill lost the shutout in the first inning.
“He couldn’t throw the breaking ball anywhere except in or over the middle of the plate,” Mauch said. “That’s not too good of an idea.”
The Royals have won nine of their last 10 and are 32-15 since July 21, when they trailed the Angels by 7 1/2 games. That was also the date on which the 39-year-old McRae was reinstated as the full-time designated hitter. McRae has since driven in 42 runs, a catalyst in the Kansas City comeback.
The first of McRae’s RBI doubles came after a two-out single by George Brett in the first. The second came after a one-out single by Brett in the fourth and preceded White’s 19th homer. Smith hit his fifth homer after a walk to Omar Moreno in the fifth.
It was a milestone night for McRae, whose first double represented his 2,000th hit.
“I’m glad that it turned out to be meaningful,” he said, “but the win is more meaningful.”
The Angels collected only a fifth-inning single by Bobby Grich, a seventh-inning single by Juan Beniquez and a ninth-inning single by Dick Schofield.
Said Mauch: “They had the same kind of game pitched for them that we had pitched for us last night (by John Candelaria). He (Leibrandt) pitched for ground balls and got them. Some were hit hard. If they find a hole, we’ve got something going.”
The 28-year-old Leibrandt is 26-14 in two seasons with the Royals, who acquired him in a trade for Cincinnati pitcher Bob Tufts in June, 1983.
Leibrandt went to the minors and regained a confidence that Cincinnati catcher Johnny Bench had helped destroy, Leibrandt said, by refusing to let the young left-hander pitch inside to right-handed hitters. Leibrandt said that Bench felt his stuff wasn’t strong enough, that he didn’t have enough velocity or change of speed to come in on right-handers.
Leibrandt has since become such an artist at it that the Royals call him “Rembrandt.”
“Our young pitchers have gotten so much attention,” Royal Manager Dick Howser said, “that Charlie has been overlooked. He’s kind of like Omar Moreno (recently signed by the Royals after being released by the New York Yankees). They get shot down and they have something to prove. We sent Leibrandt to the minors and he didn’t sulk about it. He was determined to come back. The game he pitched tonight was probably the best we’ve had pitched for us this year.
“It was important, considering the way we lost last night.”
“There’s pressure every game, but what I like about what happened tonight is that I feel like I took a little pressure off Danny Jackson (who pitches for the Royals tonight).
“We’re now even in the series, 1 1/2 up in the standings and the pressure is all on them (the Angels) to win.”
Which puts the pressure on Romanick, who hasn’t won since July 31.
Stewart Cliburn, who has missed the last nine games with a pulled muscle on the left side of his rib cage, threw in the bullpen before Tuesday night’s game and will throw again tonight. His return is still indefinite, but he said: “I was able to throw hard today. I’ve made a lot of progress in the last few days and I’m hopeful I’ll make that much more in the next few.” . . . Ron Romanick (13-7) faces Danny Jackson (12-9) in a game to be televised by Channel 5 tonight.