Infant Son Guided Hudler


Utility man Rex Hudler looked across the field Thursday at the Dodgers, looked down at his own red Philadelphia Phillies’ jersey, and knew he made the right decision.

Sure, in all likelihood, he realizes he will not be in the playoffs this year. If the Phillies lose fewer than 90 games, it might be a moral victory.

Yet he has no regrets turning down the Dodgers’ two-year, $2-million offer this winter and accepting the Phillies’ two-year, $2.6-million deal.


The Dodgers wanted him badly as their top utility player, but his family needed him more.

Hudler’s infant son, Cade, who will turn 5 months old today, was born with Down syndrome.

“Sure, I’d like to tell you it’s a blessing,” said Hudler, who played the last three seasons for the Angels, “but we know there will be tough times. I’m not saying it will be easy.

“Hopefully, he will be the bright light for all kids with this disease.

“And, hopefully, we can be role models as parents. We’re positive people. We know he was given to us from God for a reason.”


The Phillies, deciding that pitcher Curt Schilling and his agent, Jeff Borris, were right after all, signed Schilling to a three-year, $15.45 million contract extension with a $6.5 million option in 2001. The deal includes a complete no-trade clause, and the option automatically will kick in if Schilling pitches 450 innings over the lifetime of the contract.

It is the most lucrative contract ever given to a Phillie pitcher.

“Obviously, I’m excited, proud, relieved, a lot of things,” Schilling said. “The thing I’m most concerned about the next five years. I made the money. But now I want to walk away after five years and have both sides and the fans saying I earned it.”


It was just one relief performance in a long season, but considering the way Darren Dreifort pitched Wednesday night in his 1 1/3-inning scoreless stint against the Phillies, he could indeed be the Dodgers’ stopper in 1998.

“He could be the next stopper here or a starter,” Dodger Manager Bill Russell said. “He could do anything he wanted with his confidence and his makeup and his poise. With his stuff, wow!


“Right now, we could use him anywhere, really.”

Dreifort will remain the team’s primary setup man for this season, but considering that closer Todd Worrell is eligible for free agency at the season’s conclusion, the Dodgers realize they may need Dreifort to fill the role in 1998.



DODGERS’ PEDRO ASTACIO (9-8, 3.44 last season) vs. PIRATES’ ESTEBAN LOAIZA (2-3, 4.96 ERA)

Dodger Stadium, 7 p.m.

Radio--KABC (790), KWKW (1330).

* UPDATE: Pedro Astacio has eight shutouts in 108 career starts since 1992, second on the staff only to Ramon Martinez, who has 11 shutouts in 138 starts since 1992. But Astacio is 33-38 in all other games. Dodger catcher Mike Piazza has ripped apart the Pirate pitching staff, batting .378 with 11 homers and 39 RBIs in 148 at-bats. Shortstop Greg Gagne batted .357 against the Pirates last season, going 10 for 28 with one homer and five RBIs. Chad Fonville has a career .421 average against the Pirates. Raul Mondesi hit five homers and drove in 10 runs against Pittsburgh last season, the most against any team in the league. Brett Butler is 0 for 8 against Pirate starter Esteban Loaiza, but has drawn four walks. The right-handed Loaiza has been more effective against left-handed hitters (.278) than right-handers (.321).