BASEBALL / DAILY REPORT : ANGELS : They Thought They Had Seen It All

When Mariner Manager Lou Piniella arrived at the Kingdome for Monday's game against the Angels, he still was in a state of disbelief that Tony Perez, his successor in Cincinnati, had been fired as manager of the Reds.

"I think we all know that some crazy things have gone on there over the years," Piniella said, "but something like that caught me completely by surprise. I just talked to (Red General Manager) Jim Bowden on Friday, and he gave me no indication he was unhappy with Tony.

"My God, how the hell can you judge someone after 44 games?"

Angel Manager Buck Rodgers, who has been fired twice in his career, said Perez's firing makes no sense, unless there was an underlying reason.

"I don't think there's anything that can surprise me about the Cincinnati Reds organization right now," Rodgers said. "Unless he did some funny things, or lost the ballclub to the point of no return, something is not right. I can't believe it was based on his record."

Ken Griffey, Mariner batting coach, spoke with Perez on Monday afternoon and said that although Perez doesn't understand the firing, Perez told him there will be one benefit.

"He told me, 'Now, I'll get a chance to see my son play.' "

Perez's son, Eduardo, plays third base for the Angels' triple-A Vancouver team.

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The Angels said they will not make a claim to pick up starter Dave Stieb, who was released Sunday by the Chicago White Sox. "Early Wynn was asked a question that always stuck with me," Rodgers said. "He was asked, 'How can you tell when a pitcher has lost it?' He said, 'When he's afraid to throw the ball across the plate.' Well, Dave Stieb's walks have tripled from what they once were." . . . The Angels are encouraged about triple-A starter Russ Springer's progress. He is 4-4 with a 4.75 earned-run average, yielding a .258 batting average. Jerry Nielsen, the other pitcher the Angels acquired in the Jim Abbott trade, continues to struggle at Vancouver. He was put in the rotation to pitch more innings and is yielding a 5.95 ERA and .367 batting average, having allowed 37 baserunners in 19 2/3 innings.

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