As the team buses weaved their way out of downtown Yuma Sunday afternoon, embarking on the 200-mile trek back to Mesa, the Angel question of the hour was . . .
Where’s the beef?
More than a few Angel players had to wonder when they unwrapped their postgame sandwiches, expecting the succulent steak they signed up for earlier, only to find meager ham and cheese staring back at them.
Oh, that Bert Blyleven.
Throwing out the first major prank of the spring, Blyleven posted a clubhouse sign-up sheet Sunday morning bearing the heading: Steak Sandwiches for Bus Ride To Mesa. Underneath was a column for players’ names and a column for number of sandwiches.
The first name of the sheet belonged to Blyleven, along with an order: “medium, one, w/mayo.”
Minutes later, 18 other names and orders accompanied it.
Eighteen Angels were suckered--hook, line and sinker.
It’s an old gag, Blyleven confided to reporters after pitching three innings in the Angels’ 5-1 loss to the San Diego Padres, but it always seems to work on a new team.
“Every club I’ve been on has done that during spring training, on the first long bus trip,” Blyleven said. “You always get the young kids.
“They say, ‘Steak sandwiches? Really?’ And you tell them, ‘Oh, yes, son, you’re in the big leagues, now. Steaks. First class.’ ”
But even a few Angel veterans bit--Jack Howell, Greg Minton, Dick Schofield, Devon White--which pleased Blyleven no end.
“They tell me Minton was sitting there for five minutes, trying to figure out what he wanted on it,” Blyleven gleefully reported.
The conversation eventually turned to meatier matters, such as Blyleven’s spring debut, in which he allowed three runs on six hits and wound up the losing pitcher.
The smile evaporated from Blyleven’s face.
“Nobody likes to go out there and get hit,” Blyleven said. “I don’t like to give up any . . . runs. It ticks me off.
“I wish I could computerize myself. The program would say: No runs. But I’m not a computer. If I was, I’d be a lot happier.”
Blyleven kept away from his calling card--the home-run pitch--but was squibbed and dribbled to defeat.
In the first inning, Tony Gwynn reached base on an error by Howell and scored on an infield single by John Kruk. In the third inning, another infield single moved Tim Flannery into scoring position for Carmelo Martinez, who drove him in with a double to left.
“I thought Blyleven threw real well,” Angel Manager Doug Rader said. “Schoey (shortstop Dick Schofield) let one ball go through and there were some other squibble balls that went through.
“But his velocity was OK. I thought he threw well.”
Sunday’s loss completed a three-game Yuma sweep for the Angels, which, counting exhibition games, extends the club’s losing streak there to 15 straight. Since last Sept. 18, Angel managers have posted these records: Cookie Rojas, 0-4; Moose Stubing, 0-8; Doug Rader, 0-3. It’s been an arid stretch, but Rader isn’t worried--yet. “I doubt too many people will remember this game two weeks from now,” he said. “I just don’t want it to become a trend. I don’t want losing to be the expected, rather than the unusual.”
This Wasn’t The Idea: The list of injured Angels left behind in Mesa this weekend grew larger by the time returned to camp Sunday night. Held back because he wasn’t scheduled to pitch in Yuma, Dan Petry developed a stiff right shoulder during Saturday workouts and was scratched from today’s game against the Chicago Cubs. Dave Concepcion, kept behind in order to work out at shortstop, also hurt himself, coming up with a sore hamstring and a tight lower back. The Angels don’t regard either injury as serious but Petry’s spring debut has been pushed back to Friday. Non-roster pitcher Gary Buckels will replace Petry today.