The Dodgers trailed the Kansas City Royals, 9-2, when Jim Gott came into the game in the eighth inning Monday. But with one more chance to impress his bosses before they determined his fate, he felt pressure like never before.
Gott pitched a perfect inning, his third consecutive perfect appearance, and left the game hopeful that the Dodgers would guarantee his $2.125-million salary by today's deadline of 2 p.m.
"I'll be watching the clock," Gott said.
Although all contracts become guaranteed by 2 p.m. today, nobody has been more worried about a deal than Gott, who has been pushed by Kip Gross as middle reliever.
Gross is expected to be moved to triple A if Jay Howell is ready to start the season. Gott has allowed two runs in his last 11 innings despite an overall earned-run-average of 4.26. Gross has a 2.08 ERA.
"Sure there's been pressure," Gross said. "This is not the junior varsity team I'm trying to make. This is big stuff. . . . I've . . . heard about all the free agents out there with no jobs, and I think, 'Are you kidding me?' "
Gott has struggled for much of his two-year Dodger career, but went 3-0 with a 2.66 ERA after the All-Star break last season. He held left-handers to a lower batting average, .190, than any other right-hander in the league.
The Dodgers wound up losing to Kansas City, 9-2, but they were pleased when Howell threw eight strikes and three balls in a perfect inning, his first spring appearance. He will throw again Wednesday and then Friday in hopes of being ready for opening day. . . . Jose Offerman committed his seventh error in 11 games, but the Dodgers are still pleased with him, because only two of those errors might have been repeated on a good playing surface. On Monday he booted a bad-hop grounder. "There have been times I've made more errors in spring than I made all year," said Dave Anderson, veteran infielder. "Because of the brutal fields, the only thing you can look at is throwing errors, and Jose has made one of those. I still think he is doing fine."
Stan Javier also dropped a fly ball in left field, giving the Dodgers 41 errors in 24 games. . . . Orel Hershiser threw his best fastball of the spring, but had his worst game. The Royals collected 10 hits and eight earned runs against him in five innings.