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Dodger Notebook : Searage Stakes Claim to a Spot in Bullpen

Times Staff Writer

In one of the most improbable developments of the spring, left-handed reliever Ray Searage--who has kicked around organized baseball since 1976 and has a total of 16 major-league decisions--has all but won a spot on the Dodgers’ pitching staff.

It’s not official, but after the Dodgers’ 5-3 exhibition win over the New York Mets Monday, it appears that Searage--who has not allowed an earned run in six innings over his last three appearances--will join Ricky Horton as the left-handers in the Dodger bullpen.

Searage, who will be 34 on May 1, originally was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals. He never pitched in the big leagues for the Cardinals, but had stints with the Mets, Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago White Sox before signing with the Dodgers as a free agent last April.

He spent last season in Albuquerque, where he made 51 appearances in relief and had eight saves with a 5.10 earned run average. With a change in his delivery, Searage is throwing harder this spring and with William Brennan--one of the other leading candidates for the 10th spot on the staff--getting lit up for six runs and eight hits in four innings of the Dodgers’ 10-4 loss to Atlanta in a split-squad game, Searage moved ahead of the field.

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If he’s still on the roster today, Searage’s $141,000 salary will be guaranteed.

The Dodgers, in a procedural move to keep pitcher Jeff Fischer, sent minor-league catcher Gilberto Reyes to the Montreal Expos. The Dodgers drafted Fischer from the Expos last winter, and under the rules of the winter draft, would have had to send Fischer back to the Expos if he didn’t make the major-league roster. The deal for Reyes eliminated that requirement.

Ramon Martinez, who gave up two runs on three hits in five innings against the Mets, appears a likely candidate to start the season in Albuquerque, assuming that Mike Morgan--scheduled to pitch today against the New York Yankees--shows enough to win the No. 5 starting position.

“He had a good changeup and good fastball,” said Manager Tom Lasorda, still not satisfied with Martinez’s progress with his curve ball. “If he were to start the season with us now, those are the pitches he’d have to get by on right now.”

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Kirk Gibson was a spectator Monday and Lasorda strongly suggested that the sore-shouldered, flu-weakened outfielder will not be with the team when it opens the season Monday in Cincinnati.

“I’m not going to ask him to do something he can’t do if he’s not ready to play up to his capabilities,” Lasorda said.

Mike Marshall, who also has missed a week with the flu, worked out Monday, but did not play.

Third baseman Jeff Hamilton, who had been out with a pulled muscle in his thigh, played in the game against the Braves. Jay Howell, also stricken by the flu, hasn’t pitched in nine days.


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