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Baseball : Leonard Decides to Retire After 144 Wins

From Times Wire Services

Pitcher Dennis Leonard, who did what many thought was impossible when he played for the Kansas City Royals last season after a severe knee injury, retired from baseball Monday.

Leonard, 35, who ended nearly three years of rehabilitation by pitching a three-hit shutout in his first start last April, said his retirement was a mutual decision with Royal General Manager John Schuerholz.

“I felt I was an important part in their (the Royals) development,” Leonard said at a news conference at Royals Stadium. “I think I’ve accomplished a lot in my career.”

Leonard, a right-hander, said he had grown very close to his family--he has two sons--during his rehabilitation. He also said a bad second half last season, and the fact that he might not be a starter next season entered into his decision to retire.

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“In the best interests of myself, the organization and my family, it would be a good time to kind of step down a little and retire from baseball,” he said.

Leonard, who will be 36 on May 5, won the most games of any American League pitcher from 1975-82. He won 20 or more games three times, the only Royal pitcher to do it more than once. He compiled a 144-106 record in 12 seasons.

He suffered a crippling knee injury May 28, 1983 when he stumbled off the mound and tore the tendon below his left knee.

Four knee operations and three years later, Leonard strode to the mound at Royals Stadium before a national television audience on April 16 last season to make his first start since the injury. He threw a three-hitter as the Royals beat the Toronto Blue Jays, 1-0.

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The storybook comeback continued into late May, when Leonard led the American League with a 1.93 earned-run average. But the season soured for him as it did for the team as a whole, and he finished 8-13 with a 4.44 ERA.

Leonard finishes his career second on the Royals in wins. Paul Splittorff won 166 games from 1970-84.

The Atlanta Braves, who finished last in the National League West last season, traded right-handed starter Craig McMurtry to the Toronto Blue Jays for second baseman Damaso Garcia and right-handed pitcher Luis Leal.

Since Jan. 19, Brave General Manager Bobby Cox has made three trades and signed free-agent outfielder Gary Roenicke.

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Garcia, who will turn 30 on Saturday, is a two-time American League All-Star who batted .281 with 6 home runs and 46 runs batted in last season in 122 games. He is a lifetime .286 hitter with 32 home runs, 301 runs batted in and 197 stolen bases in seven seasons with Toronto.

“We think he adds a lot of offense for us,” said Cox, who managed the Blue Jays from 1982-85. “He’s always hit over .280, and he will steal some bases for us.”

Leal, 29, had a 51-58 record and a 4.14 ERA with the Blue Jays but spent most of the last two seasons in the minor leagues. He was 3-4 with a 4.14 ERA with Syracuse of the Triple-A International League last season.

McMurtry, 27, was 1-6 with a 4.74 ERA last season. Since posting a 15-9 record as a rookie in 1983, McMurtry has managed only a 10-26 record during the last three seasons with the Braves.

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The other moves made by Cox since Jan. 19 included the trade of outfielder Brad Komminsk to the Milwaukee Brewers for Dion James, a center fielder with some speed who batted more than .350 this year in the Dominican winter league, and the signing of Roenicke, who hit 25 homers in 1979 and 21 in 1982 with the Baltimore Orioles.

Last week, Cox shipped outfielder Terry Harper to the Detroit Tigers for pitchers Chuck Cary and Randy O’Neal.

Free-agent catcher Lance Parrish has rejected the Philadelphia Phillies’ offer of a guaranteed one-year contract worth about $1 million, team President Bill Giles said.

Giles said Parrish’s agent, Tom Reich, turned down the deal late Sunday. Although financial terms were not disclosed, Reich called the offer “pathetically inadequate.”

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“He said he would now talk to other teams but that he would stay in touch with us,” Giles said. “We will make no more offers. We have made them an offer we think is fair. It’s up to them now to change their minds and accept our offer.”

Parrish, who missed the last 76 games with Detroit last season because of back problems, is seeking more money and a contract with option years based on his ability to perform this season.

Giles said the Phillies were unwilling to discuss option years because of the condition of Parrish’s back. Parrish, 30, suffers from a congenital vertebra problem that could resurface at any time, Giles said.


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