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DODGERS : Hershiser Calls Intrasquad Outing a ‘Tiny Step’

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Unhappy with his pitches but still thrilled with his shoulder, Orel Hershiser took another step toward opening the season on the Dodgers’ roster Friday by throwing five good innings in an intrasquad game.

“If I can get into an exhibition game in the next week to 10 days, I’ve got a chance to be ready in early April,” Hershiser said. “I still think opening day is possible if everything goes perfect.

“Although today, everything did not go perfect.”

Facing a rotation of three major league hitters mixed in with five plate appearances by minor leaguers, he gave up three hits in the final inning after giving up only two hits in the first four innings.

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Overall, he gave up four runs, two of them earned, on 52 pitches. That is the most pitches and innings he has thrown since undergoing reconstructive shoulder surgery April 27.

“I know I should be happy, but I’m not,” said Hershiser, who only three times forced a hitter to swing and miss. “Pitching-wise, I did not live up to my expectations. I wanted to be in midseason form. I wanted to come out and throw five scoreless innings and take a big, huge step.

“Because of my last couple of innings, I think I took just a tiny step.”

Dodger physical therapist Pat Screnar, who watched Hershiser along with several hundred fans and many teammates, did not agree.

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“I thought he threw good, and I think everybody watching him thought he threw good,” Screnar said. “He is as far along as every other pitcher on the staff as far as innings are concerned.

“The only difference between him and a regular member of the staff is that he hasn’t pitched in an exhibition game. In the long run, that’s not going to make a difference.”

Hershiser hopes to make that first exhibition start Wednesday against Philadelphia, but he will need clearance from team trainers. He was encouraged Friday by overcoming two psychological milestones.

--For the first time, he did not worry about whether the shoulder would hurt, which it didn’t.

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--For the first time, he made several hard pickoff throws to first base, and felt good.

“I never wondered whether it would hurt on the next pitch . . . I never thought about it hurting at all,” Hershiser said. “That’s a good sign. That’s actually pretty amazing.”

About the pickoff throws, Hershiser said: "(Mike) Scioscia was saying, ‘What are you doing? Why don’t you just get the batter?’ I told him I wanted to test my arm. And it was fine.”

Dodger Notes

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Even though Darryl Strawberry is nursing a pulled right hamstring and cannot play until next week, he will accompany the Dodgers on their two-day trip to Monterrey, Mexico, this morning. Strawberry seemed as surprised as anyone that his name was not removed from the 22-man roster. “I sort of thought I would be staying here, but I guess it’s a showcase sort of thing,” Strawberry said. “I guess they want all the big players down there to show off. . . . I’m certainly not going to play. I guess I will just try to get my work done and get in my batting practice.”

Fernando Valenzuela also seems less than thrilled by the Mexican venture. “It is going to be very hard, I think,” said Valenzuela, who on Sunday will be pitching in his native country for the first time since 1979. “There will be so many people, so many interviews, such a short time. It will be very hard to get my work in.” None of his relatives will be attending the festivities. “From where my family lives, it is closer to see me in Los Angeles than Monterrey,” he said. “I will have nobody there.”

The Dodgers have rested Valenzuela since last Sunday so he can pitch as many as five innings. “I hope I can go as long as they want,” Valenzuela said. “But I’m sure I will be fine.”

Tim Belcher threw five scoreless innings, giving up three hits, in the Dodgers’ rain-shortened 2-1 loss to Atlanta Friday. “When people see the numbers, they may look fairly dominating, but I don’t think I was that dominating,” Belcher said. “They hit a few balls on the nose. There is a small margin of error in this game, and, for once, I was on the right side of that margin of error.” Belcher previously had given up seven runs in five innings this spring.

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Jeff Hamilton said the painful knot behind his right shoulder has diminished to stiffness. . . . Mike Hartley said he felt no pain in his previously injured left side after throwing two scoreless innings against the New York Yankees, and will pitch today in a split-squad game against Montreal. . . . Tim Crews felt no pain in his elbow after throwing batting practice earlier this week, and will appear in a split-squad game against Houston Sunday.


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