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Angel Cliburn Earns Off-Again, On-Again Journey to Edmonton

<i> Times Staff Writer </i>

One moment, Angel reliever Stewart Cliburn is sitting at his locker explaining how his right shoulder feels fine, how he’ll overcome a Sunday Freeway Series performance that saw him last just two-thirds of an inning, allow five hits and four runs.

“I’m just trying to get myself back,” said the man who finished the 1985 season with a 9-3 record, 6 saves and a 2.09 ERA. “I’m not there, obviously. It will come. I’m not worried. I’m not worried at all.”

The next moment, Angel management announces Cliburn has been sent to the Triple-A club in Edmonton. Cliburn then meets privately with Angel General Manager Mike Port in the trainer’s room. Cliburn emerges from the meeting and says he will be placed on the team’s disabled list, where he will receive care for a shoulder that wasn’t so fine after all.

“They’ve put me on the disabled list, I’ll go from there,” he says. “I’m just not physically prepared.”

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And then , the Angels announce that, yes, Cliburn is indeed bound for Edmonton “for work purposes.”

It was just part of the festivities on an afternoon that began with an entertaining 10-8 Angel victory over the Dodgers at Anaheim Stadium in front of 61,538 fans, and ended with a dose or two of management intrigue.

Doug DeCinces had two hits and drove in four runs for the Angels, rookie Wally Joyner added two more RBIs and Ruppert Jones provided the game-winning RBI with a check swing that looked like it belonged on a fairway rather than a baseball field.

“A nice little pitching wedge from about 70 yards,” said Jones of his eighth-inning single off Dodger reliever Scott May.

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May, who didn’t make anyone forget Ron Perranoski, pitched one inning and allowed five hits and three runs. He’ll get over it.

But what about Cliburn who, when he left the Angel locker room Sunday, thought he had spared himself a trip to Edmonton, a place where he spent parts of the 1984 and 1985 seasons? Before that, Cliburn had spent six years in the minors.

No wonder he didn’t want to go back.

According to major league rules, a player must be unable to render services before he can be placed on the disabled list. “I submit (Cliburn) is capable of rendering services,” Port said. “But it just hasn’t been very good of late. There are no grounds right now where it would be proper for him to be placed on the disabled list. What I said to Stewart was, ‘I hear what you’re saying and I understand your emotions, but we’re announcing it as an optional assignment.’ ”

Added Port: “After the fact, for somebody to say, ‘OK, I’m hurt,’ . . . I would not expect that of Stewart Cliburn. If somebody is trying to create something that isn’t there then that person is traveling down the wrong road.

“I’m looking at it as more a momentary misunderstanding,” Port said.

Cliburn entered Sunday’s game with a 5.40 ERA after 8 innings.

“I don’t know if there was an alternative,” Manager Gene Mauch said. "(He needs to) get some innings and come up here again.”

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Cliburn was one of two players (infielder Gus Polidor was the other) optioned to Edmonton. The Angels now have reached their 24-man roster limit. That means pitchers Ken Forsch and rookie T. R. Bryden have made the team.

Bryden, a reliever, was asked to meet with Port in the trainer’s room after the game.

“The last 5 or 10 people Mike Port has seen have been sent down,” Bryden said.

The conversation? “He said, ‘Congratulations.’ That was the one that stuck. Nobody knows. My wife doesn’t even know.”

Bryden and Forsch will be used as set-up men for Donnie Moore who recorded his first save of the spring.

“I’m ready as I can be at this time,” Moore said. “I’ll take what I have. I still have some arm strength to build up.”

Freeway Notes Dodger player representative Mike Scioscia said Sunday he has read the memo detailing Commissioner Peter Ueberroth’s drug program. He declined to comment on its contents. “The whole issue hasn’t really come to a head, yet,” he said. Angel General Manager Mike Port said a delivery problem has left management and team members without copies of the memo. They’ll get copies today, he said. “We will abide by whatever the Commissioner feels proper,” he said. “It’s another step on getting on top of this thing. In my opinion, it’s exactly what we need.” . . . Angel center fielder Gary Pettis strained his neck while stealing second base in the seventh inning of Sunday’s game. He was taken out of the game. The injury isn’t considered serious. “I’ve had a problem with my neck before and it went away,” Pettis said. “I’m sure it will be the same way.” In the same inning, Dodger shortstop Mariano Duncan bruised his left palm when pinch-runner Ruppert Jones slid back into second on a pickoff throw. Duncan was replaced by Bill Russell. Duncan, who was taken to Centinela Hospital Medical Center for precautionary X-rays, is expected to be fine for today’s game against the San Diego Padres. “I don’t want to have to stay like Pete (Guerrero),” he said.

Dodger pitching rotation for series with the Padres, which begins today at Dodger Stadium: Fernando Valenzuela vs. Eric Show, Orel Hershiser vs. Dave Dravecky, Bob Welch vs. Andy Hawkins and Rick Honeycutt vs. Mark Thurmond. Valenzuela has started on Opening Day five of the last six years. . . . The Angel rotation for their series in Seattle: Mike Witt vs. Mike Moore, John Candelaria vs. Mark Langston, Don Sutton vs. Matt Young. . . . There was some interesting batting-cage conversation between Angel Reggie Jackson and Dodger Ken Landreaux. As Jackson took his swings, Landreaux leaned against the cage. “Hey, I won’t hit 30, but I’ll hit 15,” Landreaux said. “That’s a good month,” said Jackson, without missing a beat. . . . Dodger Dave Anderson’s spring batting average may be just .218, but his back--for a change--is fine. “I’ve had a lot of back problems, but none this spring,” he said. “I did more work during the winter and I’ve felt good, haven’t had any problems.” . . . Angel Bobby Grich made another appearance at first base Friday night. He becomes Manager Gene Mauch’s insurance policy of sorts in case rookie Wally Joyner’s performance happens to sour. “I don’t even to look at that way,” he said. “I expect Joyner to do well. I’m just trying to cover myself at every position. You never know what you might have to do.” Said Grich: “I don’t mind. Wherever he wants to put me is fine. I don’t care. I figure that if I hit, I’ll play somewhere.” . . . Dismiss the notion that the Dodger pitching staff will work itself into frenzy and try too hard during Guerrero’s absence. “These guys go out and do what they’re capable of doing,” Scioscia said. “Pitching has been carrying this club for a long time. I don’t see any added danger, any added pressure on the pitching staff at all.” Scioscia on the NL Western Division: “The most underrated division in baseball.”

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Dodger starter Jerry Reuss, who has been the subject of trade rumors this spring, didn’t help his standing Sunday. He pitched five innings, allowed eight hits and five earned runs. “I didn’t like the way he threw the ball,” Manager Tom Lasorda said. . . . Franklin Stubbs, one of the main replacements for Guerrero, was named winner of the Fresco Thompson Memorial Award, an honor given to the MVP of the Freeway Series. “We’re very happy at what he’s done,” Lasorda said. Stubbs started in left, threw out Rick Burleson when he attempted to stretch a single into a double and almost made a great catch on a Brian Downing double. “Actually, I should have caught that stupid ball. I jumped a little too soon,” he said. . . . Terry Whitfield hit two home runs and drove in five runs for the Dodgers on Sunday. He was playing as the designated hitter.


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