Dodger Notebook : Dodgers May Have Found Center Fielder

Times Staff Writer

If he so desired, Dodger Vice President Al Campanis could have made a trade over the weekend for a center fielder. But Campanis said Sunday he now might want to wait awhile, not a surprising comment considering what he saw on the field earlier in the day.

Alejandro Pena, one of the pitchers who interest scouts from several teams, pitched five shutout innings in the Dodgers' 6-5 win over the Atlanta Braves. Pena has given up only one run in 13 innings, perhaps making the Dodgers think twice before making him part of a deal for an established center fielder.

That might not even be necessary if Mike Ramsey, a non-roster center fielder who was a long-shot but now has a good shot at making the 24-man roster, continues to play as he did Sunday.

Ramsey, starting in center field because incumbent Ken Landreaux was bothered by a slight groin pull, made one spectacular running catch and two others that were merely impressive. And, despite going 0 for 2 Sunday, Ramsey still is hitting .333 in 15 at bats.

The performances by Pena and Ramsey have forced Campanis to re-evaluate the club's needs.

"We may not make a deal, the way things are going," Campanis said. "You make deals because of a need. If you find out you don't have that need, you don't make it. You think long-term help, not temporary.

"We don't want to rule out any deals. We've talked with one club already about a trade, and we're expecting a call from another club. Whether we deal or not depends on continued performance by some (Dodger) players. . . . We could even go into the season and make a deal. There's no rush."

At least not on the Dodgers' end. Philadelphia and Cleveland are two clubs interested in Pena or an alternative Dodger pitcher, and both are willing to give up a center fielder. The Indians apparently are willing to part with Brett Butler, and the Phillies with either Gary Redus or another outfielder. Toronto is offering Lloyd Moseby but reportedly wants pitcher Orel Hershiser in return.

At the start of spring training, Campanis told interested clubs that he wanted to wait until March 20 before seriously talking trades. Now, Campanis says he wants to wait even longer.

Asked if there was enough interest from teams to immediately make a deal, Campanis said: "I think so, but I don't think it would be to our advantage. There is strong interest."

The Dodgers have known of Ramsey's defensive abilities for some time, but Sunday was the first time in a spring game that he had the opportunity to make catches with high degrees of difficulty.

The first--and best--came in the fourth inning, when Ramsey ran down a towering drive by Dale Murphy. Ramsey made a running, back-hand catch, then turned and doubled Gerald Perry off first base.

Later, Ramsey made a running catch in left-center and then saved at least a double when he went onto the grass bank in center field to make a catch.

Campanis, who for the last two springs has favored Jose Gonzalez as a possible replacement for Landreaux, naturally was impressed with what he saw of Ramsey Sunday.

The Dodgers acquired Ramsey from Cincinnati in 1982 in exchange for Ted Power. A former pitcher, Ramsey was converted to a center fielder by the Dodgers. Last season, he hit .286 in Double-A ball at San Antonio and briefly played in Triple-A at Albuquerque.

"At this time, (Ramsey) is making some decisions tough for us," Campanis said. "Any fan can see he's a hell of an outfielder. You got to be blind if you didn't see it."

Ramsey does not speculate about his future. He said he just wants the opportunity to show his ability.

"They can do whatever they want," Ramsey said. "All the other games, I didn't get no chances. All the other catches were easy, easy at least for me. I didn't get no hits today. If I got hits, I'd really open some eyes."

Earlier this spring, Campanis said Ramsey could be the Dodgers' center fielder if he showed that he could hit .250 against big-league pitching. Campanis has compared Ramsey to the Angels' Gary Pettis, an excellent defensive player who provides a modicum of offense.

Ramsey says he wants to bat .300 in the majors--if he makes it--although he's never reached .300 in the minors. Confidence, apparently, is another strong Ramsey attribute.

"If I didn't get hits, I'd be grumpy," Ramsey said. "I'm not satisfied unless I get hits. I'm just going out there to do my job. Hopefully, they'll keep me."

Even if the Dodgers decide to trade Pena or another pitcher, Campanis said Ramsey might make the team as a defensive replacement and pinch-runner. But Campanis said Pena's solid pitching in four spring outings might earn him the fifth spot in the starting rotation on the Dodgers instead of another team's staff.

With Cleveland and especially Philadelphia interested, every outing turns into showcase time for Pena.

Conditions Sunday were not ideal for Pena, who has given up only one earned run in 13 innings in the spring.

Pena was part of the group of Dodger players and officials who spent Friday and Saturday at the opening of the organization's baseball academy in the Domincan Republic.

They borrowed a private jet belonging to singer/actress Pia Zadora and made it back to Florida late Saturday night.

"We got back at three o'clock in the morning, and I had to pitch," Pena said. "I woke up at 11:15. (But) I feel pretty good today."

Pena says the trade rumors have not affected him. He says he likes pitching for the Dodgers but would not mind a trade, either.

"I don't know what's going to happen," Pena said. "Everybody's doing the job here. You have to sacrifice somebody. I don't know who. (Dodger management) doesn't say anything. If they come to you and say you're gone, then you're gone."

Asked if he'd rather be a long reliever for the Dodgers or a starter on another team, Pena scratched his head and called it a tough question.

"If they want me to pitch relief, I'd need two or three days rest," Pena said. "Long relief would be OK. But I like being a starter better.

"I feel happy somebody's looking at me. We have lots of good players nobody's looking at."

Dodger Notes

The Dodger made more roster moves Sunday. Pitchers Shawn Hillegas, Greg Mayberry and Dennis Livingston and infielders John Debus and Larry See were optioned to the Triple-A Albuquerque club. Infielder Manny Francois was optioned to Double-A San Antonio and Tim Scott to Single-A Vero Beach. . . . Jose Gonzalez, the favorite of Vice President Al Campanis, made an impression offensively with a two-run home run in the first inning.

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