Not even the hoarse fan who stood on the Phoenix Firebird dugout in the fourth inning Monday night and droned the Beatles’ hit, “I Saw Her Standing There,” could distract Orel Hershiser. He wasn’t going to let anything spoil the second stop on his Get Well Tour.
Hershiser, pitching for the triple-A Albuquerque Dukes, threw five shutout innings in his second minor league game since undergoing reconstructive surgery on his right shoulder 1 year and 16 days ago.
“The key tonight is I still can lift my arm,” Hershiser said. “I feel great. In four or five simulated games and two rehab starts, I haven’t had any discomfort or pain.”
Hershiser, who wore uniform No. 36 instead of his usual No. 55, gave up only five hits while striking out five and walking none. He left with a 1-0 lead but didn’t get the decision in the Dukes’ 4-3 victory over the Firebirds, the San Francisco Giants’ Pacific Coast League team.
He threw 68 pitches--44 strikes and 24 balls--compared to 44 pitches in his last start, May 8 for Class-A Bakersfield.
“He was able to extend himself,” Dodger therapist Pat Screnar said. “One of the things we wanted to accomplish was to extend his pitch count. We’ve taken a little bit bigger step. We’re looking forward to the next step.”
In two outings, Hershiser has pitched 10 shutout innings. He has given up seven hits, struck out out eight and walked none.
“Everyone is going to be looking at the five zeroes in Bakersfield and and the five zeroes here,” said Hershiser, making only his second start since April 25, 1990.
“I hope I give up a few runs. I probably should have in that first inning.”
Hershiser began the game by getting Andres Santana to ground out to shortstop. But he then gave up back-to-back singles to Darren Lewis and Ted Wood. He got out of trouble when third baseman Dave Hansen made a diving grab of Jim Wilson’s liner and stepped on third for an inning-ending double play.
“I forgot what the feeling was like to throw a hanging curve,” Hershiser said.
That was the only inning Hershiser gave up more than one hit, and only one other time did a Phoenix runner reach third against him.
Hershiser said he will need “at least two or three more starts” before he is ready to rejoin the Dodgers.
“In the first and second inning I was out of breath.” he said. “I also started to fatigue a little bit in the last inning.
“I might go through the dead-arm stage like guys do in spring training. I might get bombed the next time out and tell you, ‘I don’t have it.’ ”
Hershiser is expected to pitch again Saturday night at Bakersfield.
“I’ll wake up (today) and see how I feel,” he said. “That’s probably the easiest place to pitch. But I could go to Albuquerque since they are at home or go to (Class AA) San Antonio since the Dodgers are headed to Texas.”
One thing he won’t forget about his visit to Phoenix Municipal Stadium is the name of his pitching opponent, the Firebirds’ Dan Rambo.
“Orel vs. Rambo,” Firebird General Manager Craig Pletenik said. “If anybody saw those two names on the marquee, Rambo would win hands down.”
Hershiser also will remember the fan who climbed on the dugout for the sing-a-long contest.
“Usually, I use music between innings to get me going, but that was brutal,” Hershiser said.
Hershiser was watched by 8,557 fans, 500 more than capacity and the largest Firebird crowd of the season.
“Somebody called up today and asked what time the Orel Hershiser Show begins, and I don’t think he was kidding,” Pletenik said. “He thought it was some sort of revival.”
Pletenik said many of the fans who called about tickets also asked for directions.
“We told them it’s across from the zoo,” Pletenik said.