Just when it looked as if pitcher Dennis Powell had run himself off the road to the major leagues, the Dodgers threw one more curve at him Wednesday.
But this time, it was smooth riding for the 22-year-old left-hander, who can point his dented car toward Los Angeles, instead of Albuquerque. The Dodgers decided to add him to their opening-day roster, after all.
Powell started the spring by taking too wide a turn and crashing into a light-pole guard in a late-night car accident. Then, 10 days ago, he was among the first group of pitchers optioned to the Dodgers’ Triple-A farm team at Albuquerque.
But Wednesday morning, the Dodgers announced that they had released pitcher Bobby Castillo and utility man Bob Bailor, put pitcher Alejandro Pena and pinch-hitter Len Matuszek on the 21-day disabled list, and added Powell to the roster.
The Dodgers, who were sending out signals that Pena had a chance to be ready for the start of the season, now say they don’t want Pena throwing for a while because of persistent stiffness in his shoulder.
“Dr. (Frank) Jobe felt Pena should have three weeks of no pitching,” Dodger Vice President Al Campanis said.
“We’re not writing Pena off. He showed some progress. But you have to protect yourself if he’s disabled. Of all the young pitchers we have here, everybody concluded that Powell was the guy available for right now.”
The Dodgers will bring 25 players home for this weekend’s Freeway Series with the Angels, meaning one more player will be gone by Sunday. The likely candidate appears to be Franklin Stubbs, barring a last-minute trade.
This is the second straight year that the Dodgers have voided a player’s option to the minors just before the start of the season. Last year, it was Mariano Duncan, who was called up as an emergency replacement for second baseman Steve Sax and wound up as the team’s starting shortstop.
“Hopefully I can be as successful as he was,” said Powell, who will start the season in the bullpen but could move into the starting rotation if either Jerry Reuss or Rick Honeycutt falters.
“You never know,” Manager Tom Lasorda said, when asked if Powell could end up as a starter. “Right now, he’s going to be in the bullpen. I can’t tell you what’s going to happen a month from now.”
At least one Dodger official would put Powell in the rotation immediately.
“I’d put him ahead of those guys (Honeycutt and Reuss) right now,” the official said. “He’s pitching better than either one of them.
“But that’s not going to happen. You’re not going to put a Jerry Reuss or Rick Honeycutt in your bullpen. But something could happen before this one (season) is over.”
Speculation centers on Reuss, who walked into the press room Wednesday with a startling discovery: At 36--he will be 37 in June--he’s the oldest starting pitcher in the L.A. Dodgers’ history. Tommy John and Don Sutton both were 35 when they left. You have to go back to 1957 and Sal Maglie, who was 40 and still starting for Brooklyn, to find a Dodger starting pitcher older than Reuss.
“I don’t feel old but maybe there’s a pattern there,” Reuss said.
For now, Campanis said, there are no deals in the offing. “I like our club as it is,” he said.
Powell, who went 9-0 in Albuquerque then spent the rest of last season as an afterthought in the Dodger bullpen, has spent much of the spring working on his curveball.
“He’s young, he’s got a good arm, he’s improved on his curve and he’s getting the ball over,” Campanis said.
“He’s begun to show us maybe a little more than we thought.”
Enough to push Honeycutt or Reuss?
“I can’t answer that.”
Enough to push Castillo, there was no doubt, even though the Dodgers will have to absorb his $300,000 guaranteed contract.
Campanis signed Castillo for that amount last winter, even though Castillo’s earned-run average as a reliever, 5.89, was the third highest among National League relievers who appeared in at least 30 games.
“We didn’t know about Pena.” Campanis said. “We didn’t know if he could pitch, so you’ve got to have some people signed.”
That left unanswered, though, why Castillo’s money was guaranteed.
Castillo, who will be 31 April 18, had two go-rounds with the Dodgers, sandwiched around a stint with Minnesota that ended badly when he suffered a rotator cuff injury. This spring, he was 0-1 with a 4.50 earned-run average. He gave up eight hits and walked four in eight innings.
“Someone had to go and I guess my number was up,” Castillo said before clearing out his locker. “I’m very optimistic. Things happen for the best. I’m confident I’ll be wearing someone’s uniform somewhere.”
The Dodgers, staying in step with everybody else, will pay Bailor, 34, not to play. His $375,000 salary in 1986 is guaranteed.
Dodger Notes Fernando Valenzuela, concluding a terrific spring, pitched seven innings of four-hit shutout ball in the Dodgers’ 2-1 win over the Montreal Expos’ split squad, lowering his exhibition ERA to 0.58. Valenzuela did not walk a batter and struck out six. . . . Terry Whitfield’s two-out double in the bottom of the ninth drove in the winning run. . . . Vice President Al Campanis said Ken Landreaux has played well enough in the last week to warrant playing every day in center field, rather than being platooned with Reggie Williams. “Play every day? Oh, sure,” Campanis said. “Kenny’s as good as he wants to be. He’s determined to show people he should get more recognition.” . . . Bob Bailor said he recently bought into an outdoor business in Colorado. “It’s an outfitting business,” he said. “We also have some property and access to public land, to set up camp and take people hunting and fishing. It’s something I always wanted to do. I got into it as a part-time thing, but it looks like it might become full-time.”