Friday did not proceed without a discouraging word for the Angels’ pitching staff. John Candelaria, sent home for tests on his ailing left arm, discovered that his elbow problem has apparently taken a turn for the worse.
But for once, there was some good news for the Angels to temper the bad. And these days, mixed reviews are about the best the Angels can hope for when the topic is pitching.
Ron Romanick, who wilted like a punctured tire during the second half of 1985, winning just one of his last 10 starts, opened 1986 with five strong innings and a victory--a 10-3 decision over the Oakland A’s before 13,438 fans at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
And Ken Forsch, continuing his comeback from two years of inactivity, shook off his opening-night shelling to record his first save since 1978, pitching three innings of no-hit relief.
Forsch last saved a game on Sept. 28, 1978. He was a member of the Houston Astros then. Wally Joyner was a sophomore in high school, Don Sutton had just surpassed 200 wins, and George Hendrick hit 23 home runs with the San Diego Padres and St. Louis Cardinals.
Until Tuesday, Forsch hadn’t thrown a baseball--either in relief or as a starter--since April 7, 1984. And as returns go, Tuesday wasn’t one for the Forsch family videotape library: two-thirds of an inning, one Jim Presley grand slam, one 10th-inning defeat.
It had been a l-o-n-g time since Forsch had pitched with any degree of effectiveness. But for three innings Friday night, he was perfect, with the exception of a seventh-inning walk to Alfredo Griffin.
“I imagine Kenny Forsch couldn’t wait to get out there and get that taste out of his mouth,” Manager Gene Mauch said.
He imagined right.
“I just wanted to get back out there as fast as possible after that last escapade,” Forsch said.
This time, Forsch was the beneficiary of a grand slam. Brian Downing’s fifth career grand slam capped a five-run ninth inning for the Angels, breaking a 5-3 game open--for Forsch to close.
Downing’s home run was one of three by the Angels. Bobby Grich hit a solo shot in the second inning, and Reggie Jackson had a two-run homer in the sixth, giving the Angels nine home runs in their first four games.
Romanick earned the victory, only his second since last summer’s All-Star break. The 1985 slump, created in part by an injured foot that required off-season surgery, took Romanick from 13-4 at midseason to 14-9 overall.
Claiming to be completely recovered after a loose bone fragment was removed from his foot during the winter, Romanick scattered seven hits in six innings. He struck out four and walked one.
Romanick didn’t have an encouraging spring. He went 4-1, but win-loss totals are meaningless in March. The numbers of significance: 5.81 ERA, 32 hits and 9 walks in 26 innings.
After last year’s swoon, the Angels approached Romanick’s first start of 1986 with a certain amount of trepidation.
But for five innings, Romanick was sharp. Through the fifth, he allowed three singles--one an infield hit. Only one Oakland runner advanced as far as third base.
Things unraveled a bit for Romanick in the sixth, however.
Tony Phillips led off with a single. Bruce Bochte followed with a ground-rule double that hopped the right-field fence. Runners on second and third, no outs.
Dwayne Murphy, who singled off Romanick in the first inning, laced another hit to right-center, scoring Phillips with the A’s first run. Dave Kingman then hit a sharp grounder to third. Doug DeCinces dived and knocked it down but could make no play as Bochte scored Oakland’s second run.
A deep sacrifice fly to center by Carney Lansford brought home Murphy.
At that point, the Angels’ lead was just 4-3. Mauch then summoned Forsch, but Mauch liked what he had seen from his starter.
“Romanick pitched five super innings,” Mauch said. “Some pretty good batters scored three runs off him.”
Romanick said he got into trouble in the sixth when he began to concentrate on the Angels’ 4-1 lead instead of the A’s lineup. “I pitched on the assumption they’d be taking a lot of pitches because they were behind,” Romanick said. “I started throwing balls down the middle.
“I went away from what I did during the first five innings. That’s something I will not do again.”
Romanick tried to downplay the significance of a winning 1986 debut after his 1985 collapse.
“Every year, it’s that way,” he said. “You always want to get off to a fast start, regardless of how you finish the year before. I pretty much erased that in the spring, when I knew I was healthy.”
Another beginning of note is Downing’s. He is usually among the slowest starters in the Angel lineup. Downing typically hangs out around the .240 range through July, but after Friday night, he leads the majors in home runs (3) and RBIs (9).
Downing, who had two home runs Wednesday night, hit No. 3 in the ninth inning against Oakland reliever Tim Birtsas, after walks to Hendrick and Jackson and a single by Joyner. It was his first grand slam since April 15, 1984, which also came against the A’s, Chris Codiroli being the victim.
Downing said his grand slam “gave me the chance to bail myself out. I was taking lousy swings all night.”
In his first four at-bats, Downing popped out, struck out, bounced into a force play and walked. Thus far, he has a total of five walks.
“It’s been all or nothing--either home runs or walks,” Downing said. “I got so many walks, I got kinda lackadaisical at the plate.”
The intensity returned for Downing in the ninth. Shortly thereafter, consistency returned to the Angels’ pitching staff.
Joaquin Andujar comes off his suspension for his World Series altercation with umpire Don Denkinger and will make his first American League start today against the Angels. This rankled some of the Angels, who were upset that Commissioner Peter Ueberroth reduced Andujar’s original suspension of 10 days to 5. “Isn’t that great? That’s no loss of integrity to the game,” Doug DeCinces said sarcastically. “Joaquin doesn’t miss a start. Did the Little Leaguers of America learn anything, that you shouldn’t push and abuse an umpire? What did Joaquin do to lift the suspension? Did he apologize to Denkinger? What has he done?” DeCinces believes the reason for the shortened suspension was money. “He’s their star,” DeCinces said of Andujar, “and this organization is struggling financially. The A’s are playing their first Saturday game at home--a day game--and Andujar will probably mean an extra 15,000 people for them. I’m not pointing a finger at Joaquin, just at the system. That’s the only thing I can see.” . . . Add Andujar: The plate umpire for today’s game is Denkinger. “Isn’t that interesting?” DeCinces said. . . . Dick Schofield was out of the lineup again after re-aggravating his strained groin muscle Thursday at Seattle. “It’s worse than it was (Thursday),” Manager Gene Mauch reported. “Schofield can only run at 50-60% speed. You try and tell that little rascal, ‘You don’t play until you feel so good, you forgot you ever had a groin injury.’ But he said, ‘I’m fine, I’m fine.’ I’m not blaming Dick; it’s my responsibility. With one of those, you want it to get completely all right and then wait one more day. I waited a day. I should have waited a week.”
Fashion and Etiquette Guide for a Rookie: The greening of Wally Joyner continues. When Joyner showed up for Tuesday’s season opener in faded jeans and tennis shoes, he was the recipient of much hazing in the Angels’ clubhouse. “Do you paint in those pants?” DeCinces wanted to know. “This is the major leagues. You’re still dressing Triple-A.” Later that night, when he doubled for his first big league hit, Joyner asked the umpire for the ball. Another faux pas. “I think they were ticked off,” Joyner said, referring to his teammates. “I asked for the ball, instead of them. I guess I should have waited for them to do it.”