Angel Notebook : Petry Is Undefeated, Unused, and He's Feeling Unappreciated

Times Staff Writer

He has been the Catch-22 of the Angels' 1989 season, the undefeated pitcher Doug Rader doesn't want to pitch because when he does, it usually means something bad has just happened to the Angels.

If an Angel starter gets blown out of a game in the early innings, Dan Petry pitches. If another Angel pitcher gets hurt, Dan Petry pitches.

The worse things get for the Angels, the more work Dan Petry gets.

So far, this has significantly cramped Petry's employment opportunities this summer. In five months, he has appeared in 17 games. In 21 weeks, he has pitched 43 2/3 innings.

And when he makes a rare start in the second game of tonight's doubleheader against the Boston Red Sox, Petry, a 15-game winner as recently as 1985, will go to the mound with a 3-0 record.

As the Angels' quintessential nice guy, Petry has accepted his new lot as long reliever quietly and dutifully. But as a life-long starting pitcher who averaged 17 wins and 246 innings with Detroit from 1982 through 1985, he's also less than enchanted with life as an afterthought.

"It's almost like being on the DL the whole year," Petry said. "You have an ego, you have a certain pride. I still consider myself a starting pitcher and when it's late August and I've got only 40 innings in, it's kind of a hard thing to swallow."

Not that long ago, Petry remembers himself pitching the Tigers into playoff contention. Now 30, Petry is on a contender again, but this time in a bit role that has seen him spend most of this season acquiescing to younger pitchers.

When Rader wanted to rush Jim Abbott into the Angels' starting rotation, Petry was the one who stepped aside.

When Rader had to replace the injured Chuck Finley, Petry had to step aside again, deferring to Edmonton recall Terry Clark.

And tonight, Petry gets to make his third start of the season only because of a rain-makeup doubleheader and Rader's wish to give Abbott, who is showing signs of fatigue, an extra day of rest.

"If we weren't where we are right now and winning, it wouldn't be an easy thing to take," Petry said. "I don't want to finish my career in the bullpen. There are still some personal numbers I want to achieve, like winning 15 games again.

"That's pretty hard to do in long relief."

Petry could get such a chance in 1990, but it will probably require an address change. Petry can become a free agent after this season and figures there should be a market for a No. 4 or 5 starter who is finally pitching without pain again.

One obstacle: Petry, a 1976 graduate of Placentia's El Dorado High School, isn't sure he wants to leave Orange County.

"I'm going to have to decide this winter," he said. "One of the things I'll weigh is if the Angels want me to come back. If they do, I'll probably be back. I know my personality and I don't like change very much. So, I'm going to have to weigh that heavily.

"It also depends on what (the Angels) do during the off-season. You hear (Mark) Langston's thinking of coming out here. Who knows who else?

"I'm going to have to sit down with my wife and think it all out. That's one luxury free-agent players have--they can think about things like where they might want to play next year. I've really never been in that position before."

On a sporadic work schedule--"I get in there every 10 days or so,"--Petry has pitched respectably. His earned-run average is 4.33 and in his previous two starts, he's 1-0 with one no-decision. The victory was a five-inning stint during a 2-1 decision over Cleveland on June 6.

But ask Petry if he's satisfied with his season's output, all things considered, and he'll take a lengthy pause before responding.

"I don't how to answer that," he said. "The thing I'm proud of and would like to expand on is the 3-0 record. I know it's only three wins, but if we end up winning the division by one game, I guess I will have contributed.

"It would be nice to finish undefeated, something like 6-0, and end the season with the sense that I made some contribution.

"But, I can't be too optimistic. I haven't really done that much this year. I can try to find something good, but I have to try pretty hard."

Maybe tonight, then.

"I'm looking forward to it," Petry said. "This is a matter of helping the ballclub win a big game down the stretch. If I can do that, it'll be special. I'll have a good feeling about myself."

San Francisco has Kevin Mitchell and Will Clark, Toronto has Fred McGriff and the New York Mets have Darryl Strawberry and Howard Johnson, but no team in baseball has what the Angels have.

A total of 124 home runs.

With seven players owning at least 10 home runs and none with more than 19, the Angels lead the major leagues in team home runs in the truest sense of the term.

Angels in double figures:

Chili Davis: 19

Jack Howell: 18

Lance Parrish: 16

Wally Joyner: 12

Devon White: 12

Brian Downing: 10

Claudell Washington: 10

No Angel team has ever had eight players with 10 or more home runs, but the '89 Angels will get there the next time Tony Armas clears the fences.

Last season, the Angels finished tied for eighth in the American League in home runs. The reason for the upswing has been obvious: the off-season acquisitions of Parrish, Washington and reserve catcher Bill Schroeder (six home runs in 126 at-bats).

So obvious that even Joyner is moved to toss a compliment in the direction of Angel General Manager Mike Port, his longtime foil in contract negotiations.

"Mike's done a great job. Did I say that?" Joyner joked.

"He's got a group of guys here who have meshed well, a group of guys who like to be together. They like hanging out after the game, long after two or three minutes after the umpire says, 'Strike three.' "

And, together, they've become the top home run-hitting team in baseball.

"San Francisco has been successful with one or two guys hitting home runs," Joyner said. "Looks like we've been successful our way."

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