Advertisement
Share

Dodger Defines Intensity : Baseball: Second baseman Jody Reed shows passion for the game even when he’s on the disabled list.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

In a span of six hours Wednesday, Dodger second baseman Jody Reed revealed his personality without giving an interview, without playing an inning . . . and without even trying.

Shortly after 4:30 p.m., Reed put on his uniform, laced his shoes and grabbed his glove. By 5 p.m., he was on the field, stretching. He was intense, to the point that when a reporter asked for a five-minute interview, Reed said no, because he doesn’t give interviews after he puts on his uniform.

And Reed was on the disabled list .

The message was clear: Jody Reed has an intense, almost immeasurable passion for baseball, a love for the game that isn’t suppressed by a list that says he can’t play.

Advertisement

Then, shortly after 10:30 p.m., after the Dodgers had defeated the San Francisco Giants, 5-3, Reed quickly dressed and hurried out of the clubhouse, giving a Heisman straight arm to a reporter who still wanted a five-minute interview.

Reed explained that he was in a hurry; his wife had delivered the couple’s second daughter a day earlier and he wanted to beat the traffic to be with his family.

Jody Reed is also a devoted family man.

“I tell you,” Manager Tom Lasorda said, “he’s a hell of a guy, and we miss him very, very much.”

It seems that everyone misses Jody Reed these days, and everyone is counting the days until he can play again.

“You can see by him not being in there just how much we need him,” said center fielder Brett Butler. “Jody’s been a mainstay to put us, at least, in . . . contention.”

Reed, who suffered a hyperextension of his left elbow when he was kicked by Colorado’s Andres Galarraga June 15, is eligible to come off the disabled list today, though he is not expected to play for another week.

“We’re not sure when he’ll play,” Lasorda said. “But, hey, he did not deserve what he got. Galarraga gave him a cheap, dirty shot. . . . Look what the consequence was: We had to lose our guy for 20 days.”

Advertisement

The incident--it was the underlying cause of a brawl, resulting in the suspension of Dodger pitcher Ramon Martinez and Rockies Charlie Hayes and Keith Shepherd, but not Galarraga--was ill-timed for Reed and the Dodgers, who are 6-7 since.

And Reed had been peaking at the plate, batting .373 during his previous 25 games, including a four-for-four game against the Rockies the night before he was injured.

Reed called Galarraga’s slide “an extremely dirty play.”

Earlier, Galarraga had been hit in the neck by a errant pick-off throw at first base.

Advertisement

Said Butler: “If you get hurt playing normally, that’s one thing. But when you get dogged like that, that, that’s. . . .”

Butler paused.

“I, uh, I think guys were upset, because, it took away one of our main guys,” he said. “It hurt us. Guys aren’t going to forget that. Guys are not going to forget what happened.”

*

Advertisement

Nobody had to spell out the obvious to Fred Claire, Dodger executive vice president. Nobody had to tell him that he had to do something for a team that committed 174 errors in 1992.

When the season ended, Claire began working on a deal for Reed, a defensive standout left unprotected by the Boston Red Sox in the expansion draft.

By draft day, Claire had potential trades worked out with the Florida Marlins and the Rockies to get Reed.

Hours after the Rockies had selected Reed, the Dodgers got him in a trade for righthander Rudy Seanez, a sore-armed reliever now on the 60-day disabled list.

Advertisement

“We needed to get a guy who was going to be our everyday second baseman,” Claire said.

Last season, the Dodgers tried four players at second base--Lenny Harris, Juan Samuel, Mike Sharperson and Eric Young.

Combined, they made 32 errors.

That instability didn’t help shortstop Jose Offerman, who had 42 of his own.

Advertisement

This season, Offerman’s defense has improved and his confidence has surged. He has been making difficult plays look routine, and in an abrupt change from last season, making routine plays look routine.

“I worked together with (Reed) and everything’s going better,” said Offerman, who has 19 errors. “There’s no question about it. He’s my kind of second baseman.”

Another newcomer, third baseman Tim Wallach has helped, too, doing his part to solidify the infield.

Reed, though, is the anchor.

Advertisement

He has only three errors in 60 games after making 13 last season with Boston.

“Hey,” Lasorda snapped, “don’t forget that during that 11-game winning streak, he stole more base hits from the opposition than you can imagine.”

The Dodgers were willing to spend more than $2 million for a player coming off his worst season.

The expansion teams were only interested, it seems, because they knew how badly the Dodgers wanted Reed.

Advertisement

The lack of interest could be traced to Reed’s final year in Boston.

Once a solid .280 hitter, Reed struggled in 1992, batting a career-low .247.

His relationships with General Manager Lou Gorman and players such as Roger Clemens, were, at best, strained.

Reed, 30, who had a reputation in Boston as a whiner, wanted out of Boston and Gorman left him unprotected.

Advertisement

“You can’t put a gun to his head, and say, ‘You’ve got to stay,’ ” Gorman said. “Still, it’s always difficult when you lose a player (who) can still play.”

Clemens, asked at spring training about the team’s new chemistry “after Jody,” was critical of Reed’s attitude in 1992. Reed conceded Clemens was right.

“I wasn’t in the proper frame of mind to play baseball last year,” Reed said in March. “I probably didn’t pour my whole self into it.

“But, really, I’m getting so tired about talking about the past. I just want to get on with my life.”

Advertisement

He’s done that in Los Angeles, finding that there is life after the Red Sox--for him, and his suddenly growing family.

And things have been going well at work, too.

“I mean, every night he makes one or two great plays,” Cory Snyder said. “He’s that little spark plug out there. He goes out and plays hard. You can just tell when a player is intense.”

Still, during spring training, Lasorda wasn’t so sure.

Advertisement

“I saw this little guy,” Lasorda said of Reed, who is 5-9. “I didn’t know what to think. But I heard a lot of good things about him.

“I found out that this was a guy who played extremely hard. He was a tremendous competitor, and he was a great guy for a ballclub. . . . He gave us something that we needed desperately.

“The more you see him, the more you love him.”


Advertisement