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Rainout Fails to Cool an Angry Hamilton

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Dodgers’ platoon at third base was unofficially disbanded Tuesday when Lenny Harris was in the starting lineup against Pittsburgh Pirate left-hander John Smiley.

It was enough to make Jeff Hamilton want to desert.

“Actually, I was hoping this would happen,” said Hamilton, who is batting 94 points below Harris with one fewer run batted in. “Now, maybe there will be a little gas thrown on the fire. Now, maybe they will feel like they can trade me.”

Leave it to the Dodgers to still display intensity on a night when their game lasted only into the second inning before being postponed because of rain.

With the Pirates leading, 1-0, on a first-inning home run by Andy Van Slyke against Bob Ojeda, the game was stopped at 8:12 p.m. EDT because of showers.

After a 2-hour 4-minute delay, the game was rescheduled as part of a doubleheader here Sept. 6. Ojeda, who gave up two hits in 1 1/3 innings, will move to the bullpen for two days and resume his spot in the rotation Sunday at Dodger Stadium against St. Louis.

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Hamilton wouldn’t mind if he was traded by then, or at least before he has spent most of the season on the bench.

This is not news to the Dodgers or anyone else, because Hamilton made this request more than a month ago, after he and Harris began platooning at a position Hamilton thought belonged to him.

The Dodgers probably will not easily part with a former top prospect, so Hamilton said he has told them he will officially demand to be traded this winter. This will give the Dodgers little choice.

According to the rules of the Basic Agreement between players and owners, any player with five years of major league experience can demand a trade by giving up four years of free-agency rights. That team must trade him by March 15 or he becomes a free agent.

“Giving up those rights is a hard thing to do,” Hamilton said. “And the Dodgers probably don’t think I’ll go through with it. But I am willing to do it, and I have told them that.

“In order to leave here, it would be worth it.”

Hamilton has not started a game since May 31. But entering Tuesday, in the nine games since then, opponents have started only one left-hander, and Hamilton was sick that day.

So he did not realize how far he had fallen behind Harris until Tuesday, when Smiley was pitching.

Hamilton was sitting on the bench, preparing to take batting practice in the underground cage with the regulars, when he was told he was not a regular.

“You’re kidding me?” he said, pausing. “Oh well, I really had expected it. I knew it was headed in this direction. I’m not stupid.

“But I did not work so hard all winter to do this. And even though I won’t blast people, or cause trouble, they know how I feel.”

Hamilton admitted that he agrees with the rest of the team, and most of the fans, that Harris deserves to play. Hamilton is batting .222 with 13 RBIs; Harris is hitting .316 with 14 RBIs.

The Dodgers are 23-13 when Harris is in the lineup. In the first seven games of this trip, he has helped them to five victories with a .348 average and eight RBIs, including a grand slam Monday against the Chicago Cubs’ Chuck McElroy.

McElroy is a left-hander. Harris has five hits in 15 at-bats against left-handers.

Harris is also feeling comfortable at third base. He has committed only one error in his past 34 games.

Harris knew Lasorda had finally agreed to play him against all pitching when Lasorda winked at him before Tuesday’s game.

“I winked at him because I think he is cute,” Lasorda said.

“A wink was all I needed,” Harris said.


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