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NOT A LEG TO STAND ON : Unable to Hit, Barely Able to Run, Gibson Finally Takes Himself Out of Dodger Lineup

<i> Times Staff Writer </i>

He was weary of fly balls he couldn’t chase and fastballs he couldn’t rip and ultimately, Kirk Gibson’s competitive burn gave him no choice.

After the Dodgers’ 8-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates Saturday night, he asked to meet with team officials. It had become obvious, they weren’t going to make it easy for him. You don’t just bench most valuable players. He would have to do it himself.

So he flatly told them that his legs were killing him. And then he asked them, would they please take him off the roster.

“I don’t have the ability to do the things expected of me,” Gibson said Sunday after being placed on the disabled list for what could be the rest of the season. “As much as I wanted to tell myself I could do it, as positive as I wanted to be . . . reality is reality.”

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His problems were officially diagnosed as a sprained medial collateral in his right knee and a chronic left hamstring sprain. Gibson, who missed 27 days earlier this season with a left hamstring injury, translated them in different terms.

“I came back too early from the first injury, I still felt it,” he said. “Then it got worse and worse and worse. Now, I hardly have any strength in my lower body at all, and I can’t do anything. People who say I don’t use my legs to hit, that’s not true.”

In an interim move to fill Gibson’s spot on the roster, the Dodgers activated pitcher Alejandro Pena, giving the Dodgers an 11-man staff for Sunday’s doubleheader against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

After the doubleheader, the Dodgers sent rookie pitcher Jeff Fischer to triple-A Albuquerque and purchased the contract of newly acquired outfielder Billy Bean, a former Santa Ana High School and Loyola Marymount standout, as a replacement for the left-handed Gibson.

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Bean, acquired from triple-A Toledo of the Detroit Tiger organization, had two hits in nine at-bats in three games at Albuquerque, with a triple and three runs batted in. For Toledo, he hit .315 with four home runs and 29 RBIs in 76 games. In parts of two big-league seasons with Detroit, he hit .247 with no home runs in 36 games.

In trading for the left-handed-hitting Bean, it was as if the Dodgers knew something would happen with Gibson. But then, anybody watching the Dodgers the past two months could figure something would.

A week after he returned from his first injury, on May 31, Gibson was batting .289 with three homers and 11 RBIs. Since then, he has hit .176 (30 for 170) with six homers and 17 RBIs. Overall, he is hitting .213 with nine homers and 28 RBIs.

“Anybody who has watched Kirk since spring training knew he was having problems,” said Fred Claire, Dodger vice president. “You know Kirk Gibson is not a .213 hitter. He tried to fight his way through it and couldn’t.”

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Claire said the decision was made after meetings the last two days.

“He asked to see (Manager) Tommy (Lasorda) and myself after the game, and said the condition of his legs has made him incapable of doing what he wants to do,” Claire said. “We met again with him this morning and made the decision.”

Why did Gibson wait until now to force that decision?

“I was trying to deal with it,” Gibson said. “I am committed to my teammates. I have a contract, an agreement to give my best effort. I was dealing with this the best I could. I thought I would work through it. I couldn’t.”

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The only thing resembling a bright spot involves Jose Gonzalez, the club’s center fielder of the future who was benched when Gibson moved there after the Dodgers acquired left fielder Kal Daniels. Gonzalez will return to the starting lineup.


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