According to popular legend, Wally Joyner had the spring of springs last year when he staked his claim to the first base position vacated by Rod Carew.
Every Palm Springs afternoon seemed to bring a 3-for-4 for Joyner; every swing of the bat seemed to inspire wonder. No rookie ever did it better.
And then came Devon White.
Take a look at a tale of two rookies:
--Joyner, spring of 1986: .387 batting average, 36 hits, 3 home runs, 12 runs batted in, 16 runs.
--White, spring of 1987: .390 batting average, 39 hits, 3 home runs, 21 runs batted in, 19 runs. And that's not including the seven games remaining on the Angels' exhibition schedule.
The ultimate phenom has been out-phenomed.
Saturday, White hit a two-run home run in his first at-bat. Two innings later, he bounced a run-scoring single through the right side of the infield. His line for the afternoon: 2 for 5, 3 RBIs.
This sort of thing has been going on for a while. When asked for his thoughts on White's latest foray, Angel Manager Gene Mauch held a hand to his mouth and yawned.
With the exception of batting average, White leads the Angels in every significant offensive category--runs, hits, home runs, RBIs, at-bats (100), doubles (8), triples (3) and stolen bases (8). Only Darrell Miller, at .419, is hitting for a higher average.
Mark McLemore, White's running mate in the minor leagues, has come to expect such streaks from the 24-year-old outfielder.
"I've seen him do it before," McLemore said. "When he gets in a groove, watch out. The only groove he hasn't been in is stolen bases--but that's because he keeps hitting doubles."
Mauch, tiring of having to invent superlatives each day, simply says of White: "He's fun to watch. And the thing that's so much fun is that he's not trying to impress anybody--he just likes to play ball."
White's batting stroke is not classically smooth like Joyner's, but Mauch has grown fond of it these past few weeks.
"Devon White doesn't direct the ball. He slashes at it," Mauch said, mimicking the swing with a whip of his right forearm.
Must be something White picked up from all that New York stickball as a kid.
"Yeah," Mauch said with a grin. "And he must've played a lot of it at night, when it was too dark to see."
McLemore also had a considerable hand in the Angels' 11-4 victory over Milwaukee, going 4 for 5 with a bunt single, a double, an RBI and a stolen base.
"A major league ballplayer can show you no more than what Mark McLemore showed today," Mauch said. "Hitting the ball, stealing bases, turning difficult double plays. That's by far his most complete game. He showed everything he can do."
The four hits raised the rookie second baseman's spring average to .305.
Despite showing improvement in his right leg Saturday, John Candelaria will miss today's scheduled exhibition start against the San Diego Padres. Mauch said Candelaria should be ready to pitch again by next Friday's Freeway Series opener.
"He had a certain amount of improvement, but not enough," Mauch said. "If he has a real good workout (today) and extends himself in the first game against the Dodgers, he'll be all right."
Willie Fraser will start in place of Candelaria today.
Urbano Lugo's first victory of the pring was as messy as they come. He pitched just 3 innings, surrendering 7 hits, 3 runs (2 earned) and 2 walks. "He had nothing--and he didn't know where to throw that ," Manager Gene Mauch said, explaining why he pulled Lugo after the third inning. Did such a rough outing reopen the race for the No. 5 starting berth? Mauch shook his head. "That can happen to anybody," he said. "If it were Don Sutton out there, a veteran, and he needed 100 pitches, you'd keep him out there. But that doesn't do a kid any good, standing out there and getting knocked around. It was better to pull him after three innings and have him pitch two more on the sidelines." . . . Stewart Cliburn, who sat out the past four days with tenderness in his right elbow, worked the ninth inning, walking two. "I hate walks," Cliburn said. "If they get a basehit there, it could've been a pitcher's nightmare. I would've been satisfied without the walks. The elbow felt fine; there was no sharp pain. But it's not as strong as it can be. It feels a little weak." Cliburn said he's about a week behind schedule but hopes to make up for lost time by making three appearances in the Angels' last seven exhibition games. Mauch's appraisal: "His stuff is obviously getting better, but he's a long ways from being sharp with his control." . . . Mike Cook and Gary Lucas pitched the middle innings. Cook struck out five in three innings and called it "by far, my best game of the spring." Said Mauch: "That stuff gets people out." Lucas yielded 3 hits, 2 walks and 1 run in 2 innings. . . . Wally Joyner was removed from the game in the third inning after re-aggravating the right hamstring that has bothered him all spring. Before he left, Joyner singled once in two at-bats, lifting his spring average to .243.