Whitson Is Not Ready for Bullpen : Veteran Starter Says It Isn't Time Yet to Consider the Idea

Times Staff Writer

Shortly before the start of the Padres' spring training, Manager Jack McKeon revealed that starting pitcher Ed Whitson's future might be in the bullpen. Upon arriving here Sunday, Whitson responded with the verbal equivalent of a dirty look.

"I certainly don't want to do that right now . . . or anytime soon," said Whitson, who is coming off what he considers the best year of his career with a 13-11 record, 3.77 earned-run average and 118 strikeouts with only 45 walks. "Man, I have no idea how to warm up. I have no idea what I'd even do down there.

"Last year Jack asked me if I would consider it, and I told him yes, I would . . . if and when I couldn't go six or seven innings a night. That time hasn't come yet. I felt as good last year as I have ever felt. If every year were like last year, I'd be the happiest man on the earth."

Indeed, by most counts, the bullpen blew six of Whitson's possible victories last year. Even pitching coach Pat Dobson admitted, "The bullpen buried him."

Whitson's nemesis was Lance McCullers, who ruined Whitson's fine opening-day start in Houston (turning a 3-1 lead into a 6-3 loss) and afterward seemed to show up every time Whitson was going well, promptly turning things badly. McCullers has since been shipped to the New York Yankees and Whitson, soon to be 34 and in the final year of his contract, hopes none of 1988's problems count against him.

"I would think that they would want a 200-inning guy (205 1/3 innings) to stay where he's at," Whitson said. "I hope this year I can get better results for the effort. I think I can do that if I stay a starter."

Dobson agreed. "I would hate to see a guy's job taken away from him if he deserves to keep it. He made great improvement last year, and there's no reason to think he couldn't make more improvement this year. I think Jack only talked about the bullpen in case of a trade or something."

Protested McKeon: "Hey, it's only an idea for down the road."

Padre Notes

Tim Flannery became the 12th of 19 position players to report to camp on Monday, two days before the requested time. Pitcher Eric Show remained a no-show because of the flu, but telephoned club officials to tell them he would arrive Wednesday. Although he will be only three days late, Show's absence has already thrown a kink into pitching coach Pat Dobson's spring plans. Originally, Show, Bruce Hurst and relievers Mark Davis and Dave Leiper would work the March 3 spring opener against the Angels. Now it appears Show is out of that group. . . . The first Padre pitchers to take the mound in a game will be Ed Whitson and Dennis Rasmussen, who are scheduled to pitch Sunday's annual intra-organization game between the big leaguers and the minor league minicamp all-stars. The minicamp involves about 50 minor leaguers who arrive in mid-February and work for a month before the remaining 80 or so minor leaguers show up. It was started partially as a way for the organization's Dominican Republic players to leave their country before other baseball-playing Dominicans and avoid visa problems. Well, as of Monday, none of the Dominicans had shown up yet. Reason? Visa problems.

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