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Baseball : Sutton’s Future Is in the Options Market

A goal-oriented Don Sutton will start working on his second 300 victories Monday night in Texas.

Barring injury, he will achieve both of his new goals--700 starts and 5,000 innings--soon after the All-Star break.

Will he still be pitching next season or will he retire to become the full-time president of Suttcor International?

An interesting question, particularly since the Angels:

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--Have initiated a youth movement threatening Doug DeCinces, Bob Boone, Brian Downing, Reggie Jackson and Bobby Grich, each in the last year of his contract.

--Can buy out Sutton’s 1987 option year for a mere $10,000.

As learned by The Times, these are the details of a contract Sutton signed last winter:

1986--A guaranteed salary of $550,000 and the opportunity to make $340,000 more on these bonuses: $40,000 for 20 starts, $100,000 for 25, $100,000 for 30 and $100,000 for 33.

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1987--The same terms, providing the Angels exercise the option and retain Sutton. They can otherwise withdraw from the 1987 commitment on the $10,000 buyout.

General Manager Mike Port said the option arrangement was a compromise between Sutton’s desire to pitch two more years and the oft-burned Angels’ feeling that it should be based on merit.

Port said a decision on 1987 won’t be made until the end of this season.

It is unlikely that Sutton’s milestone victory last Wednesday night will be a factor, since the Angels refused to re-sign Rod Carew only two months after he had collected his 3,000th hit.

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Sutton will be 42 in April. He has pitched as well as ever in his last six starts. If he maintains the groove, regardless of age, he will be back next season.

Having achieved 300, will that have an impact on his desire to pitch again?

“No, not if someone wants me to pitch and my ability is still there,” Sutton said. “I have too much pride to go out there and embarrass myself, but if I feel I can continue to pitch effectively, I’d like to do that.”

Besides starting a grading system for evaluating the performance of his New York Yankees, owner George Steinbrenner jabbed Dave Winfield with a new needle during an interview with the New York Daily News Wednesday.

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“Too often we’ve come to compare Dave Winfield with Reggie Jackson,” Steinbrenner said. “We got used to seeing Reggie deliver in the clutch time after time. Dave Winfield delivers in the clutch on defense, but he’s not a Reggie. Maybe it’s not in him. Not that he isn’t trying, he is. We just got spoiled with Reggie, (Graig) Nettles, (Thurman) Munson and (Lou) Piniella.”

Winfield showed that his hide has toughened with a pragmatic response to this latest attack.

“I’ve had things directed at me intentionally in the past, but now I know what to expect,” he said.

“Ultimately, if we win, he’ll say that he did it to motivate us.”

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Steinbrenner reserved his sharpest criticism for pitcher Ed Whitson, whose obvious paranoia over the booing he continues to receive at Yankee Stadium has left him virtually useless at home.

“How the hell can I listen to a guy who says the crowd bothers him?” Steinbrenner said.

“I mean, never have I seen one like this one. I’ve been involved in a lot of businesses, but with this guy you have to be a psychiatrist, baby-sitter and businessman rolled into one.”

Greg Mathews of Cal State Fullerton is 3-1 with the St. Louis Cardinals since his recent recall. The big leagues? Big deal.

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“You hear those monster stories,” Mathews said. “In the minor leagues, when you dream about the big leagues, the hitters are incredible. They hit everything. But I’ve found it relatively easy so far. I hope I don’t kill myself by saying that, but I have to be honest.”

His strategy: Keep the ball down and use your defense. “Keep it simple,” he said.

It continues to be anything but simple for the Cardinal hitters. They have scored three or fewer runs in 43 games.

Said Andy Van Slyke: “Last year, when we got down by a run in the eighth or ninth innings, we knew we would win.

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“That attitude doesn’t exist now. Now it’s, ‘Oh, no,’ instead of, ‘No problem.’ ”

And the defending National League champions are being booed at home. Sort of.

“This is still a country club compared to New York and Philadelphia,” Clint Hurdle said. “I’ve seen people beaten to the ground. I’ve seen grown men cry.”

The Houston Astros’ Mike Scott has pitched 10 straight games in which he has allowed two or fewer earned runs. His record in that span: 3-3 with four no-decisions.

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The hard-luck Scott was deprived of two victories when successor Dave Smith, the National League’s premier reliever, yielded home runs to Chili Davis of the San Francisco Giants and Eric Davis of the Cincinnati Reds, which suggests that Jody Davis of the Chicago Cubs may be next.

Scott, in the meantime, received no sympathy from Giant Manager Roger Craig after Chili Davis connected. Craig maintains that Scott is doctoring the ball. He even had a verbal exchange with Houston Manager Hal Lanier about it.

Said Craig: “I taught Scott how to throw the split-finger. I didn’t teach him how to cut the ball.”

Like the Boston Red Sox and the Angels before them, the Baltimore Orioles are reportedly exasperated over Fred Lynn’s refusal to play unless he is 100%. Lynn, suffering from a sore wrist, a sprained ankle and the flu, missed 10 straight games through Thursday, and the Orioles lost eight of them. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list Friday.

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“I feel badly that people haven’t seen me at my best more often,” he said. “But I’ve got to come back my way.”

Oriole second baseman Alan Wiggins was the victim of the hidden-ball trick in Tuesday’s game with the Detroit Tigers, then made three throwing errors in Wednesday’s game, two of them in the eighth inning. Then, between innings, the Diamond Vision scoreboard played the Who Am I? game where the face of an Oriole player was revealed in sections while the crowd guessed the identity. It came up Wiggins, prompting thunderous boos.

Wiggins later called it a humiliation and said: “I didn’t ask to come to the great Baltimore Orioles. They wanted me. If they don’t want me, they should do something about it.”

Manager Earl Weaver commiserated some, saying that the scoreboard’s timing was the worst he had ever seen. But he added: “This guy (Wiggins) has had more chances than anyone who ever wore an Oriole uniform. He’s had more chances than Mike Cuellar, and I gave Cuellar more chances than I gave my first wife. Whether he gets another remains to be seen.”

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The truth and nothing but: Barring a miracle in the form of an extended winning streak, the injury-plagued Oakland A’s will fire Manager Jackie Moore before or during the July All-Star break. . . . Astro President Dick Wagner has threatened to fire any member of the front office leaking trade information, which adds credence to the fact that the Astros are trying to deal Phil Garner and Dickie Thon. . . . The Chicago White Sox have been issuing daily bulletins regarding the status of the continuing negotiations with the Yankees over Tom Seaver. “It’s ridiculous,” co-owner Jerry Reinsdorf said. “We’ve got to stop giving out the hospital reports.” . . . Charlie Hough seems to be improving with age, but the youth-minded Texas Rangers will trade him to an August pennant contender if the Rangers are out of the race by then, as anticipated.

Cleveland Indians knuckleballer Tom Candiotti, who has been using glue to prevent cracked fingernails, has now gone to a substance called Hoof Maker that is designed to prevent the cracking of horses’ hoofs. It was suggested to Candiotti by the wife of coach Johnny Goryl, who works with horses. Said Goryl, when he recommended it: “If you start to whinny, you know you’ve been using too much.” . . . Dave LaPoint is in the Detroit bullpen with a 2-5 record and a 6.37 ERA, but that winter trade sending Juan Berenguer to San Francisco has paid dividends for the Tigers. Eric King, acquired with LaPoint and recently recalled from Nashville, is 3-0 with a 2.03 ERA. This time, however, there’s no hyperbole from Manager Sparky Anderson. “I’m not making a star out of him,” he said. “I’ve done that too often. Let them build for themselves now.”


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