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Schofield, Getting a Rare Start, Finishes Twins : While Burleson Rests His Arm, Backup Shortstop Hits Three-Run Homer

Times Staff Writer

Dick Schofield is a man of few words. And when you’re hitting .143 and you’ve played in only two games, it isn’t easy to make a statement with your bat.

Before Saturday’s game against the Minnesota Twins at Anaheim Stadium, Schofield’s activity had been limited by a pulled groin muscle and the fact that Rick Burleson has been trying to write a happy ending to his comeback story after a series of shoulder injuries. As of Saturday, Burleson had already played in more games (10) than he had in the past two seasons combined. Schofield had done more watching than playing.

But Burleson came to the ballpark Saturday with what Angel Manager Gene Mauch called a “tired arm,” giving Schofield an opportunity to return to the position he filled for 147 games last season. He learned he would be the starting shortstop shortly before taking batting practice.

Schofield proceeded to hit a three-run homer in the fourth inning that was the difference in the Angels’ 5-4 win in the third game of a four-game series that concludes today. He also made a good defensive play to deny Kirby Puckett of a hit in the eighth inning, ranging far to his left to throw out Puckett from behind second base.

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So what better chance for Schofield to speak out and tell anyone who would listen that, when healthy, he belongs in the Angels’ starting lineup, right?

Wrong. Schofield admittedly would have preferred not saying anything about his performance. For once, he figured, his bat did do the talking, so why should he have to talk, too? Besides, how much can a guy with a career batting average of .206 say about hitting?

Not much, apparently. “I just swung and hit it,” Schofield said. “It just happened.”

Schofield declined to speculate on what this day would mean to him in terms of future playing time.

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“That’s up to him,” he said, looking in the direction of Mauch’s office door. “I just play the way I can. That’s all I can do.”

Mauch didn’t seem to think the condition of Burleson’s right arm was cause for much concern. “I don’t think it would necessitate him not playing,” he said.

Burleson emerged from what has become an overcrowded Angel trainer’s room with an ice pack strapped to his right shoulder. The decision to sit this one out, he said, was made shortly after he arrived at the ballpark.

“This is the most I’ve played in four years,” Burleson said. “I told Gene that once I felt some discomfort, I would let him know. I’ve felt good enough to play every day until today.”

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So, in went Schofield, who had 3 hits in 17 previous at-bats against Twin starter John Butcher. He grounded out in the third inning and came up next in the fourth with two on and two out. He sent Butcher’s pitch over the 370 sign in left center to give the Angels a 5-2 lead. The RBIs were his first of the season. It was his first home run since last August, when he homered against the Twins.

Mauch was happy to see Schofield get a hit but doesn’t want the home run to go to his head.

“I’ve already talked to him, and I told him, ‘Don’t let that home run get in the way of that two-strike swing,’ ” Mauch said. “He’s worked very hard on developing that two-strike, scramble swing.”

Mauch would prefer to see Schofield get considerably more hits than he got in 1985. Schofield just hopes he gets more chances. But he wasn’t making any demands.

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“Like I said . . . that’s up to No. 3.”


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