On Friday, the Dodgers’ playoff pitching alignment was thrown into uncertainty when John Tudor injured his hip.
On Saturday, the team’s prospects received another blow when outfielder Kirk Gibson seriously aggravated a lingering left hamstring strain.
Gibson said he awoke Saturday morning, after playing 6 innings without discomfort Friday night, and felt so much pain that he could not walk.
“I pushed it hard last night,” Gibson said. “Maybe that’s why this happened. I wanted to test it. I didn’t think this would happen.”
Gibson was examined and treated by Dr. Frank Jobe but was not in the lineup in the Dodgers’ 2-1 victory over the San Francisco Giants before a crowd of 33,951 at Dodger Stadium. Gibson could not even make it to the plate for the presentation of a truck, his prize for being selected as the Dodgers’ most valuable player by the fans.
There was, however, some encouraging news for the Dodgers: Fernando Valenzuela pitched 4 strong innings in relief of starter Tim Belcher (12-6) for his first save since 1980, giving up only an unearned run.
Although several San Francisco players and Giant Manager Roger Craig said that Valenzuela had lost his effectiveness, Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda said he was encouraged by Valenzuela’s showing.
Valenzuela himself indicated that it might be best not to include him on the playoff roster, either as a starter or reliever. Before his 2 strong recent outings, he spent 2 months on the disabled list with a shoulder injury.
“I don’t think they (want to) use me in close games,” Valenzuela said. “That’s why I don’t think so. Not because my arm is bad. It’s important games now.”
Fred Claire, the Dodgers’ executive vice president, said a decision would be made Monday, when he turns in the playoff roster.
Gibson said that if he can walk without too much of a limp, he will be available for Tuesday night’s playoff opener against the New York Mets.
Gibson had missed 5 straight games last week with the injury, but he played Wednesday and Friday nights without aggravating the condition. “I can’t walk,” said Gibson, sitting in front of his locker. “This is the most sore it’s been. It’s been frustrating, but I’m not going to give up, by any means.
“I certainly plan on playing Tuesday. I feel confident I’ll be ready to play. I’ll just have to throttle down a little. It won’t do any good to go all out Tuesday and then miss Wednesday’s game. I don’t want to get into a situation where I play every other day.
“The only thing I can do is rest it, get treatment. I will do whatever it takes to play.” Jobe said he is confident that Gibson will be able to play Tuesday night. Gibson is getting anti-inflammatory medication and other treatment.
Tudor, meanwhile, received an injection in his right hip during his examination with Jobe. Tudor is expected to throw Monday morning to determine whether he will be able to start Game 2 Wednesday night.
Tudor suffered what was diagnosed as a muscle spasm in his right hip area in the second inning Friday night when he landed awkwardly after delivering a pitch.
“When I landed on it, it felt like somebody jammed a knife in there,” Tudor said. “I would have to throw on the side for no other reason than to let the club know whether I could pitch. It’s not good to go out to the bullpen on Wednesday and then find out that I can’t pitch. We’ve got some good candidates to do it if I can’t.”
Belcher, after pitching 5 scoreless innings Saturday, has allowed only 2 earned runs in his last 31 innings. Franklin Stubbs’ solo home run and Jeff Hamilton’s run-scoring single in the fourth denied Rick Reuschel (19-11) his 20th win in his final start. If Tudor is unable to pitch in Game 2, Belcher figures to move up a game and be his replacement.
“I’ve been uncertain for a couple of weeks now, so it’s no problem,” Belcher said. “But I threw less than 60 pitches today, so I could go on 3 days’ rest.”
Valenzuela had 57 days’ rest before his start last Monday night in San Diego, where he gave up 2 runs in 3 innings. Saturday, he allowed 2 hits and 2 walks while throwing 64 pitches.
Could Valenzuela enter the rotation if Tudor can’t pitch?
Lasorda was noncommittal, but Valenzuela did not seem eager.
“These are the playoffs, and they won a lot of games when I was out,” Valenzuela said. “Tudor, (Orel) Hershiser, (Tim) Leary, Belcher. They all got pretty good stuff.”
How about relief? Again, Valenzuela did not seem encouraged, because of the extended warmup time he needs to loosen his left shoulder. In Saturday’s planned relief appearance, he warmed up for 8 minutes, sat down briefly, then warmed up again for 15 minutes.
Although Valenzuela got good reviews from Lasorda and his teammates, the Giants were not as kind. “He’s not the same, I’ll put it that way,” Craig said. “He didn’t have the real bite on his breaking ball and his screwball was so-so.”
Said outfielder Kevin Mitchell: “He wasn’t challenging nobody. He threw me all screwballs, and I was on top of the plate.”
Said Lasorda: “That’s Roger’s opinion. I’m entitled to mine. I thought he pitched good.” Well enough to be included on the playoff roster?
“That’s something we’ll have to discuss,” Lasorda said.