Impressed with Gary DiSarcina's development in the field and at the plate, Angel Manager Buck Rodgers announced Monday DiSarcina will supplant Dick Schofield as the starting shortstop this season. Second baseman Bobby Rose, DiSarcina's minor league double-play partner, will join DiSarcina in the revamped infield, replacing Luis Sojo.
"We're gambling on two aggressive personalities," Rodgers said. "That's why I think the gamble is a minimum, and I think it's more of a minimum when you see the year Dick's coming off of.
"We feel Bobby Rose can give us some run production at the bottom of the lineup, which fits in with our feeling we have to have a nine-man offense. He played very well down here and he led the Texas League in hitting (in 1989, when he hit .359), so we're not talking chopped liver. DiSarcina is coming off a banner year in triple A and he's opened our eyes defensively."
Schofield, who started for eight seasons, never achieved the offensive success predicted for him early in his career. He hit .225 last season, reducing his career average to .232. That opened the door for DiSarcina, 24, who hit .310 for Edmonton.
Rodgers said he plans to deploy Schofield and Sojo as utility players, and he inserted Sojo at third base in the eighth inning of Monday's 3-0 loss to the Padres. However, Schofield has played a position other than short in only seven of 1,060 career games. "I don't want to play second base. I'm a shortstop," Schofield said. "If he says catch, I'll catch . . . but I don't know how to play second base."
Aware his job was in jeopardy, Schofield told Angel executives he'd want to be traded if he doesn't start. "I don't want to be a backup and I think they understand that," said Schofield, who is hitting .167 this spring. "Whenever it can be discussed, fine. Until then, every time I put this uniform on, I'm going to go out there and try to win.
"I don't think you're prepared for this. You kind of know something's going on but I was never sure 100%. If I get traded, I'd have to sit back and think about it, but I just pictured myself starting. If I'm here opening day and I'm not starting, it'll be kind of a weird feeling."
Rodgers said the spring performances of Rose and DiSarcina were not prime factors in his decision. With a .390 batting average, DiSarcina has by far outhit Schofield, but Sojo holds an edge over Rose, .256 to .220. They're a standoff afoot--neither is fast--but Sojo has one RBI to five for Rose.
"Stats were not particularly important. It was more effort," Rodgers said. "Bobby Rose probably is hitting only a little over .200, and if you look at his average, you're not going to get excited. But we look at all the balls he hit hard this spring. . . . If DiSarcina had gone downhill or come in playing scared or safety first (his decision might have been different). But I saw the same aggressive guy I saw last September. It was (a matter of) if DiSarcina didn't go backward. That was a big factor."
Rodgers said he also weighed Schofield's rejection of a three-year contract last winter and eventual acceptance of a one-year, $1.5-million deal.
"DiSarcina is a young man on his way up, and if he proves out, we're going to have him for a few years, which is important to me," Rodgers said. "Certainly the two guys that are left out are good players and they can do some things better than the other guys. We're making a choice of how they fit into this team."
Although hopeful of winning the job, DiSarcina said he wasn't sure about his status until Rodgers told him before Monday's game against the Padres.
"I'm happy, but it's hard to enjoy because of the person that was there. He was the first guy to congratulate me, and I was speechless when Dick did that," DiSarcina said. "I think I played up to my ability. I didn't want to win it because of Dick not being here--I wanted to earn it."
Rose, 25, hit .298 for Edmonton and .277 for the Angels in 22 games last season. Despite his strong showing this spring, he feared the worst when Rodgers summoned him and DiSarcina into Rodgers' office Monday morning.
"He told us he'd made a decision and I just put my head down because I thought it would be another demotion to Edmonton," said Rose, who sat out the 1987 season for what he described as personal reasons. "When he told us, it was the best thing I've ever heard."
Whitey Herzog, the Angels' senior vice president for player personnel, said he will attempt to accommodate Schofield's trade request.
"I'm trying everything I can but I'm not going to give him away," Herzog said. "I've been talking to a lot of people, mostly about him. But the Mets say they're going with (Kevin) Elster, the Dodgers are going with (Jose) Offerman, I don't know who Milwaukee's going with and Toronto's not interested."
For Sojo, who was acquired from Toronto with Junior Felix for Devon White in December, 1990, Monday's announcement was another in a long list of setbacks. His 1991 season was interrupted by a sprained right ankle, a concussion and cuts on fingers of both hands when he was slashed by a knife during clubhouse horseplay.
"I had a lot of problems last year, but I'm healthy this year," Sojo said. "They had to make a decision and they decided for Bobby, but I know I can play every day. Now I have to start again."
Unless Schofield is traded before opening day, Rodgers will start the season with seven infielders instead of six. That means he might have to get by with five outfielders--starters Luis Polonia, Junior Felix and Von Hayes, backup John Morris and Hubie Brooks, whose usefulness in the field will be limited until his sore right hip heals.
It's also likely John Orton, unable to play any exhibition games this spring because of a sore right shoulder, will start the season on the disabled list. That would leave the catching contingent at Lance Parrish, Mike Fitzgerald and Ron Tingley. Fitzgerald will also be a backup infielder and outfielder.