A pitch has yet to be thrown and already the Dodgers lead the New York Mets in something--long faces.
Amid the first-day festivities of the National League Championship Series Monday came injury-related news that effectively separated the Dodgers from their good moods.
Pitcher Fernando Valenzuela (shoulder) has been scratched from the postseason roster, pitcher John Tudor (hip) has been moved back in the rotation, and shortstop Dave Anderson (back) has been replaced by Mike Sharperson.
“Nothing is going to take away from my pleasure of being in the playoffs,” Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda said. “Right now, I’m the happiest man in the world.”
Valenzuela was scratched because of a strained left shoulder that has sidelined him for 57 days this season. He returned from the disabled list to pitch twice last week, and allowed just one earned run in seven innings, but he was not sharp, and his exclusion from the 24-man roster was not unexpected. “I think it’s best, yeah,” Valenzuela said with an expression that said he wasn’t quite sure. “I know those guys don’t want to rush me. They know I like to play . . . but I never say I’m hurt. I’d love to play, but I’m not ready.”
Said Dodger vice president Fred Claire: “We just didn’t want to take any risk with him. His future is more important than the playoffs.”
Valenzuela, who has a career 1.93 ERA in three league championship series, said the problem was simple.
“I’m not ready to start, and my arm isn’t good for the bullpen,” he said. “This gives me more time to rest.”
And perhaps to think about his impending free agency this winter.
Valenzuela said he plans to return home to Mexico after the Dodgers finish their postseason work, but then return to Los Angeles in November to begin throwing and working out.
“This is something I never do before,” he said. “Before, all I do in the winter is rest.”
Rest is something that also doesn’t appeal to Tudor, who because of a hip injury suffered Friday night when he landed awkwardly on a delivery, will not start in Game 2 Wednesday. He will be held back until Game 3 Friday, with rookie Tim Belcher replacing him in Game 2.
We don’t want to accuse Tudor of being unhappy, but after throwing for 5 minutes with pain Monday, he was terse as usual:
How did he feel?
“I felt OK, and that’s all.”
Did he ask to pitch in Game 2?
“That was their decision.”
Did they ask his opinion?
How’s the hip feeling?
“It really doesn’t matter.”
Said Lasorda: “He threw today and had slight pain. By moving him back, he’ll have almost 4 more days rest.”
In the other Dodger move, Dave Anderson’s nagging back, injured again last Friday during infield practice, finally proved to be his undoing. Despite the fact that he has played in 70 more games than Sharperson, with a .249 average and just 5 errors as a shortstop fill-in, come tonight he will not even be allowed in the dugout.
“It’s just bad timing,” Anderson said. “I’m not going to let this overshadow what I’ve done this year. I’ll be ready in a few days, but that won’t help them now, they can’t hang on to a guy who can’t play.”
“I wasn’t going to play much anyway. It’s more of a disappointment to me than to the team.”
In announcing his lineup Monday, Met Manager Davey Johnson said that rookie Gregg Jefferies would start the entire series at third base, while the four other infielders would platoon at shortstop and third base.
According to Johnson, Howard Johnson will start at short against right-handers, and rookie Kevin Elster will start against lefties (read: John Tudor). Wally Backman will start at second base against right-handers, and Tim Teufel will start against left-handers.
There are two ramifications here. One is that Johnson will be playing his first big games at shortstop, not his natural position. Second, all of this places rookie Jefferies in the front row after just 1 month in the big leagues.
“I feel good over at shortstop now,” said Johnson, a once-regular third baseman who has played about a month’s worth of games at shortstop the past two seasons. “At first it was uncomfortable, because I was always thinking about where I should be, where I should throw. But now I’ve got it down to where I just react.”
And what if he is involved in a play so different he doesn’t know how to react?
“I’ve been in the big leagues 6 years,” he said with a shrug. “I’ve seen everything there is to see. I think.”
The Dodgers got minor league pitcher Jim Neidlinger from the Pittsburgh Pirates for left-hander Bill Krueger, who has a 27-31 record in 6 major league seasons.
Neidlinger, 24, was 5-8 with a 2.82 ERA at double-A Harrisburg and 0-0 in 3 games at triple-A Buffalo.
Krueger, 30, was 15-5 with a 3.01 earned-run average in 27 games at Albuquerque of the Pacific Coast League and was 0-0 in one game with the Dodgers. He shuttled between the minor leagues and the Oakland Athletics from the 1983 through 1987 seasons.
Times staff writer Sam McManis contributed to this story.