DODGERS : Worrell Impressive as a One-Day Starter
With the weather forecast calling for heavy rain later in the day, pitching coach Ron Perranoski made a last-minute change and had closer Todd Worrell start Friday’s exhibition against the Atlanta Braves.
Worrell, who normally takes the mound without trepidation, said he was a bit nervous. He made 13 pitches, retired the side on three groundouts and hit the showers.
“When I got back to the dugout, some of the guys said, ‘Is that it?’ ” Worrell said. “I said, ‘This is my job, to pitch one or two innings. Try it in the ninth with guys on base.’ ”
Worrell, who has been recovering from tendinitis in his shoulder, was ready to pitch a week ago, before suffering a tight hamstring. His only outing this spring had been in an intrasquad game.
With nine days until the season begins, the Dodgers and Worrell were eager to get him into a game. Worrell said trainers have rubbed his hamstring raw trying to loosen it. “They are making it sore,” he said.
He threw without pain against the Braves.
“I had no problem delivering the ball to home plate, but I’m not pitching to certain spots like I did before. That will come,” he said. “I even felt a little nervous. It was my first time pitching in an exhibition game and my first time in a Dodger uniform.”
Worrell said it was important for him to pitch well as soon as possible to show his teammates he can still perform and to erase any doubts among the fans.
“Even when I signed my contract with the Dodgers, it didn’t go the way I wanted it to,” he said. “Then, with me not throwing, I think it created some doubts. With all the rainouts and the hamstring pull, I am just glad to get out there today.
“I don’t know if the club will bring me back tomorrow or not. We need to see how everything bounces back. But I want to take the ball as many times as I can.”
Worrell, who has had elbow and shoulder operations, signed a three-year, $9.5-million contract in December without the Dodgers requiring a physical examination. In January, Worrell told the club that his shoulder was bothering him, and he has been recovering from tendinitis since then.
Worrell faced Otis Nixon, Jeff Blauser and Ron Gant, throwing four sliders, three changeups and six fastballs. Six pitches were hit foul.
“They basically took defensive swings,” Worrell said. “They didn’t take good cuts and were hitting off the end of the bat trying to protect the plate.”
He said he has been working on his changeup the last couple of years and has the confidence to throw it any time in the count.
“After I was hurt, I had more time to work on it, and it has come along,” Worrell said. “Before, I couldn’t have thrown it when the count was three and two, because I couldn’t get it anywhere near the plate. But it has given me a big edge now. Hitters who know me know I am going to throw a fastball 85% of the time. But the other 15%, they know that I might throw a changeup, so they will wait on the pitch a split-second longer, and that is all I need.”
The sun was shining when Perranoski chose Worrell as the starter about 30 minutes before game time. But thundershowers began during the bottom of the seventh inning, washing out a 1-0 Dodger lead that came on a home run in the top of the inning by Cory Snyder against Greg Maddux.
It’s becoming clear that, if Todd Worrell is sound, the club will carry 10 pitchers. Eight of the 10 are locked in: starters Orel Hershiser, Kevin Gross, Tom Candiotti, Ramon Martinez and Pedro Astacio and relievers Jim Gott, Roger McDowell and Worrell. . . . A left-handed reliever is wanted, and Steve Wilson has been the most consistent, though Lee Guetterman has been effective lately. . . . Pedro Martinez might be sent back to Albuquerque. Kip Gross, who is out of options, is a strong possibility in the bullpen.