Don Sutton is living with mixed emotions these days. He is happy in his new career as a sportscaster, but he is not happy with the way his old career ended.
The Dodgers released Sutton last Aug. 10 after he had won 324 major league games, 233 in a Los Angeles uniform. Sutton said the team should have handled the situation more delicately.
Sutton, who will turn 44 on April 2, talked about his departure before Saturday's exhibition game victory over the Montreal Expos.
"I would like to have been given the opportunity to retire gracefully instead of being kicked out," Sutton said. "They got rid of me with a lack of respect for someone who had meant that much to the club."
Sutton had re-signed with the Dodgers in January of 1988 after a seven-year odyssey that had taken him to Houston, Milwaukee, Oakland and the Angels. He started regularly last season until he developed soreness in his right forearm, then was on the disabled list for six weeks. He was reinstated Aug. 9, started in Cincinnati that night, and was sent packing the next day.
"I pitched six good innings and got drilled in the seventh," Sutton said. "The next morning, Fred Claire (the Dodgers' executive vice president) called me in and told me I was gone. It was done in a poorly orchestrated manner, with no class at all. There was no offer to retire. It was embarrassing."
Informed of Sutton's complaint, Claire said that Sutton could have opted to announce his retirement when he was released.
Sutton, who had a 3-6 record with a 3.92 earned-run average, was released to make room for pitcher Ramon Martinez, who was called up from triple-A Albuquerque. "I can't argue with that," Sutton said. "But they could have kept me around in some capacity. It would have been fun to have been a part of one of the greatest years in Dodger history, and I certainly deserve a niche in Dodger history.
"They just kicked me out the door. I wasn't shown the door. I was kicked out of it. There were a number of ways I could have had a part of it."
Sutton did not express any bitterness when he was released.
He said at the time: "I would liked to have left on a more successful note, not being injured and with more wins."
Sutton is filing daily reports on the Dodgers for Fox Television. He will work 35 Dodger home games on the Z Channel during the season, plus about 75 Atlanta Braves games on cable station TBS. He also will fill in on regular Dodger broadcasts, and will make his debut today as a substitute for Ross Porter.
Porter was called to Oklahoma City Saturday because of the illness of his mother-in-law.
Ramon Martinez, who had been unimpressive previously, improved his chances of being the Dodgers' fifth starting pitcher when he held the Expos to two hits in five innings. The Dodgers won in 11 innings, 2-1, on pinch-hitter Mickey Hatcher's single. Martinez said: "My fastball was mean and nasty. I feel like I can pitch here." However, catcher Mike Scioscia said: "I think he's got to get more consistent with his breaking ball. I'd say Mike Morgan has the inside track to be our fifth starter." . . . Mario Soto, former Cincinnati Reds pitching star who tried to rehabilitate his ailing arm with the Dodgers last year, watched from a box seat. "I'm done," he said. "My arm is gone." . . . Jeff Hamilton returned to third base for the Dodgers after being out 10 days with a thigh injury.
Hall of Famer Hank Aaron thinks the Dodgers are better off with Willie Randolph at second base than they were with Steve Sax, now with the New York Yankees. Aaron is director of player development for the Atlanta Braves, who share the West Palm Beach training complex with the Expos. He said Saturday, "I don't think the Dodgers are going to miss Sax at all. Randolph is better than Sax defensively. He's one of the best second basemen in baseball."