It’s a Dodger veteran’s prerogative in spring to miss an occasional bus trip, whether it’s the three-hour ride south on the Florida Turnpike from Vero Beach to Miami or the two-hour north-by-northwest trip to Orlando, where the Dodgers won their sixth straight game, 6-1, over the Minnesota Twins Wednesday.
That’s why it might come as a surprise that only rookie Chris Gwynn, who has played in 19 of the Dodgers’ 21 spring games, has been in more exhibitions this season than Eddie Murray, the first baseman busily divorcing himself from a reputation that had become tainted in his last two seasons in Baltimore.
Murray had a double and single in five at-bats Wednesday, raising his average to .316 in 18 games. He’d have played in more games, he said, but he skipped the two in West Palm Beach because the field is so hard.
Murray also drove in a run, his 12th RBI of the exhibition season, tying him with Alfredo Griffin for the team lead. Murray’s 10 extra-base hits--six doubles, a triple, three home runs--lead the club.
“It’s just like everything else,” Murray said with a shrug, when asked why he has been as active as he has this spring. “You’ve got to get your mind ready to play.”
That’s a lot easier done, he said, when there’s such a striking difference in atmosphere, as he has discovered since leaving the Orioles for the Dodgers.
“Just being here is extremely different,” Murray said. “The players are a lot more relaxed around here. There are big (roster) decisions still to be made around here, but over there (with the Orioles), not many guys had jobs. That makes a difference in the way people walked around there. It’s a lot looser here.”
And while Murray may never be mistaken for a clubhouse comedian like Steve Sax, he’s considerably looser than, say, Kirk Gibson, whose thundering disapproval of Jesse Orosco’s eye-black prank put an entire team on notice last spring.
“That’s the way I’ve always played,” Murray said of his relaxed demeanor. “I can laugh at myself, because I know when I look funny. . . . Say I swing and miss at a curveball in the dirt. I’d laugh, because I knew the guys in the dugout were laughing. The next pitch would be a curveball, and I’d hit it out. I think Earl (Weaver) couldn’t understand that, to be that young and approach the game like that. But if you can’t take a joke, then you’re in the wrong profession.”
Even as a newcomer, Murray said he hasn’t detected any reluctance on his teammates’ part to include him in their banter.
“I don’t think my teammates ever feel that way,” he said. “I’ve always felt that among each other, you should feel free to talk to every one of your teammates. And that’s everyone’s game here.”
The aspect of the Dodgers’ game that has surprised him the most, he said, is the emphasis on running at every opportunity. Murray is a graduate of the Earl Weaver school of the Supremacy of the Three-Run Home Run, while Manager Tom Lasorda will hit-and-run or bunt whenever he gets the chance.
The last time Murray bunted was his first year of rookie ball. His manager, George Farson, told him never to do it again, even though Murray says he beat it out for a hit.
So far, all indications are that Murray is in for happier times here than in Baltimore, where he maintains that all of his problems stemmed from strained relations with the media.
“I get in trouble,” he said, “from trying to stay out of trouble.”
Despite awakening with a throat infection Wednesday, Orel Hershiser pitched five innings against the Twins, allowing an unearned run on two hits, a walk, and two strikeouts. Hershiser won his third game in four decisions when the Dodgers scored four runs in the second inning, three on Tracy Woodson’s home run, his second of the spring. . . . Mariano Duncan, either showcasing his versatility for the Dodgers or another team interested in his services, played center field, second base and shortstop Wednesday. . . . Woodson, battling for a utility position, raised his average to .389. . . . Alfredo Griffin had a hit in two at-bats to remain at .500.