Dodgers Give Sutton His Night, Give Angels No Trouble, 4-0

Times Staff Writer

Nice team, these Dodgers.

First, they throw a pregame party at Dodger Stadium Saturday night for Don Sutton, complete with pats on the back, hugs, plaques, warm applause. Then they spend the rest of the evening trying to ruin the occasion for him.

It didn’t work.

The Angels defeated the Dodgers, 4-0, in a rain-shortened Freeway Series game that drew 29,931 fans. They saw Sutton almost add to the moisture as he fought back tears during the ceremony. Later, after pitching three scoreless innings, Sutton could be found in the locker room sipping on a glass of Chardonnay.

“Something I brought in to drown the butterflies,” he said.

Sutton nervous? Hard to believe from the man who makes it a point to keep a tight leash on his emotions.

“I was surprised I didn’t throw the ball against the screen or into the press box or somewhere else because the adrenaline was really flowing,” Sutton said. “Tonight was one of those nights I could have done some embarrassing innings.”

Maybe it was the Dodgers who were a tad embarrassed, what with waiting six years to thank Sutton properly after choosing not to re-sign him following the 1980 season. By then, Sutton had won 230 games and also established team records for games started, strikeouts, innings pitched and shutouts, to name a few.

So it seems anything is possible, including a tribute to Sutton by the team that specializes in early retirement (see Ron Cey, Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, etc.).

Now Sutton is with the Angels. He also is five wins away from his 300th victory, which may explain why the Dodgers saw fit to honor him Saturday night.

It was a pleasant ceremony, and Sutton thanked them, in part, by pitching three shutout innings. In so doing, he lowered his spring earned-run average to 2.45 in 25 innings.

Ron Romanick and Bobby Grich did the rest of the work for the Angels. Romanick followed Sutton and added two more scoreless innings before a persistent drizzle became a bona fide downpour. Grich homered in the fifth inning to give the Angels a 2-0 lead. Doug DeCinces added an RBI double, and Romanick contributed an RBI single.

Mike Marshall was the one bright spot for the Dodgers. He had two hits, although he nearly didn’t make it to first base after a second-inning single that saw him stumble and tumble out of the batter’s box.

No matter. Despite the deeds of others, the evening still belonged to Sutton.

After lugging away assorted gifts and mementos (a bottle of wine, a glass-encased baseball glove, a fishing fly rod, an attache case, a home plate, a City of Los Angeles plaque declaring April 5 “Don Sutton Day”), the 41-year-old pitcher even managed a single off Dodger starter Rick Honeycutt. “Tonight, he hit my bat,” Sutton said. “He just happened to throw a strike.”

And guess what number he wore as he jogged down the first-base line? That’s right, No. 20, the same numerals he wore on his jersey during his days with the Dodgers. The switch was made possible by Angel center fielder Gary Pettis, who now wears No. 24 (Willie Mays was his idol).

“I had no idea,” Sutton said. “It was probably one of the biggest surprises and one of the nicest. To have him do it, I know it was a sacrifice.”

There were other surprises. Sutton’s former pitching coach, Red Adams, made an appearance at the ceremony. Sutton credits Adams for his success. Then there was Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda, who missed Sutton at the pregame festivities, but later phoned him in the Angel clubhouse.

“He had a lot of nice things to say in a couple articles recently, too,” Sutton said. “Bill Russell came out and said something kind of special. He said, ‘I know how you must feel.’ Kind of nice, huh?”

Good thing the rains waited until the sixth inning. Sutton said this may have been his last chance at a night to call his own.

“Apparently, the Dodger office said the only time they could reschedule it would have been Monday at Casey Stengel Field--with eight of us,” he said. He laughed when he said it.

Freeway Series Notes Things are looking up for the Angel starting rotation. On Friday, John Candelaria pitched five strong innings and lowered his earned-run average to 1.29. Don Sutton has thrown well, too. The other starters--Mike Witt, Ron Romanick and Kirk McCaskill--have struggled at times but appear to be improving steadily. Candelaria’s performance may be the most satisfying because of the concern about a nagging elbow injury. He threw 67 pitches Friday, allowed just three hits and struck out six batters. “He threw very well,” Angel pitching coach Marcel Lachemann said. “His velocity didn’t drop from the start of the game to the end. That’s important.” . . . The news from the bullpen is less impressive. Angel relievers managed to blow a 4-0 lead Friday night as the Dodgers won, 6-5. The problem, Angel Manager Gene Mauch said, has to do with number of appearances. “I don’t think it’s any secret,” he said. “Stewart Cliburn hasn’t been on the mound enough. Donnie Moore hasn’t been on the mound enough. Maybe one more time out is all they’ll need and they’ll put it together.” Mauch said Moore and Cliburn had made about 10 appearances at this same point last spring. This year, the number has been cut in half because of nagging injuries. “It’s just a matter of time,” Mauch said. “Last year, Donnie Moore’s ninth time on the mound, well, he got shelled. The 10th time on the mound, he was razor sharp for the balance of the season.” Said Cliburn: “I’m the type of pitcher who has to get into a good groove. Right now, I’m not in that groove. I haven’t found that groove, but I don’t think I’m that far away.” . . . Newly acquired pitcher Chris Green arrived Saturday. No word on his status . . . Carl Willis, a right-handed pitcher selected by the Angels last December in the minor league draft, has been reclaimed by the Cincinnati Reds. The Angels, who paid $50,000 to acquire Willis, will receive $25,000 from the Reds. Willis didn’t make the Angels’ 24-man roster, making it possible for the Reds to reacquire him. The Angels provided the Reds with a list of players and told them to choose two in exchange for Willis. The Reds declined. Willis will be sent to the Reds’ Triple-A team in Denver . . . Dodger starter Orel Hershiser, who Thursday was hit in the ribs by Dale Murphy ‘s line drive, said he is OK. “There’s just a little stiffness, but it’s going away,” he said. Hershiser threw in the Dodger bullpen Saturday . . . Dodger third baseman Bill Madlock continues to nurse an inflamed vein in his right leg. “If this were the regular season and it came on, then I would play,” he said. “It’s not serious, but it can be serious if I don’t take care of it.” Madlock takes medication to promote better blood circulation in the leg . . . Angel reliever Gary Lucas said his injured back is getting better. “I think I’m making progress,” he said. “In the last three, four days, I’ve had less pain walking around.” Lucas tosses the ball on the sidelines, but his first real test won’t come until April 13, when a throwing session is planned in Oakland . . . The injured Pedro Guerrero, who underwent successful surgery to repair a torn patellar tendon Friday, has been asked by the Dodgers to throw out the first ball when the team opens the season against the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium Monday. If Guerrero declines, a fan will be selected.