Doug Rader kept staring at the scoreboard beyond the outfield fence at Angels Stadium Thursday afternoon, as if the numbers were going to change.
Cubs 9, Angels 1. Fourteen hits by the visitors. Three errors by the home team.
“What a day,” Rader said with a sigh.
“I guess the highlight was Lance Parrish’s slide into second base,” he added, recalling how his catcher had broken up a double play in the second inning.
“That’s lunging a little, isn’t it?”
The Angel manager had just watched his pitching staff absorb another pounding, with starter Kirk McCaskill unable to complete his scheduled six-inning round and reliever Stewart Cliburn knocked around for five runs in the seventh inning.
By day’s end, the team’s earned-run average was 5.01. During the club’s first week here, the Angels have won games by scores of 9-8, 7-6, 7-6 and 4-3--and have lost games by scores of 12-7, 3-2 and 9-1.
The individual ERAs of the projected rotation: Mike Witt 3.86; Bert Blyleven 4.29; Chuck Finley 4.50; Dan Petry 12.71; McCaskill 4.79.
The individual ERAs of the projected bullpen behind Bryan Harvey: Willie Fraser 4.15; Greg Minton 5.63; Bob McClure 0.96; Cliburn 5.40.
Rader was asked if the numbers were starting to affect his blood pressure.
“No, that really doesn’t trouble me,” he insisted. “I’ve got an awful lot of confidence in the real nucleus of our pitching staff, the people who are pitching the greatest number of innings.
“Spring training ERAs are a little bit misleading. I really think there are two things to keep in mind--one, you’ll never score as many runs during the season as you do in the spring, and, two, you’ll never give up as many runs.
“The higher ERA generally reflects on three or four people, and if those people are vying for jobs, that doesn’t speaking highly for their chances.”
Include Cliburn in the latter category. The lone holdover from last season’s opening-day bullpen, Cliburn was victimized by weak defense Thursday--one of the five runs he allowed was earned--but still looked ragged to Rader.
“He got the ball up,” Rader said. “When Stu gets hurt, it’s because of (pitch) location. Some people can get away with the ball up there, but Stu’s not one of them.”
Did the outing dash Cliburn’s chances of retaining his long-relief position?
“I don’t think it can be that final. That would not be fair,” Rader said. “But, in all honesty, it certainly doesn’t help.”
And McCaskill, who threw 105 pitches in 5 2/3 innings, surrendering four runs in the process?
“We all know he was behind in the count too much,” Rader said. “It seemed he was pitching to every hitter, three-and-one, three-and-two. Pitching like that is a difficult proposition. No, it’s stronger than that--impossible.
“But he’s a tough kid and a competitor by nature. Generally, those kind of people find a way. I have a great deal of confidence he’ll solve the riddle.”
Only 11 more solving days until the season opener.