Dierker Chips In With Some Good Advice

Pitcher Darryl Kile thought he wasn't hearing right when he called new Houston Astros Manager Larry Dierker over the winter and asked what he should work hardest on before spring training.

"Your golf game," Dierker said.

"My what?" Kile responded.

"Your golf game," Dierker reiterated. "I think it can help your concentration."

Kile thinks it has. The 28-year-old right-hander out of Norco High and Chaffey College went eight innings of the Astros' 2-1 victory over the Dodgers on Saturday night and lowered his earned-run average through four starts to 2.53. He has held opposing hitters to a .194 average.

"Larry thinks there's a lot of similarities between pitching and golf, and I tend to agree," Kile said. "I didn't know where he was coming from at first, but I understand now. Besides, I could tell my wife I was going out to play because it was the manager's orders."

Dierker, who pitched in the major leagues for 14 years and was a longtime Astro broadcaster, said the analogy between pitching and golf is not a stretch, that it's no coincidence Atlanta aces Greg Maddux, John Smoltz and Tom Glavine are adept at both activities, as were former pitchers such as Don Sutton, Tommy John and Tom Seaver.

There's the combination of power and finesse required in both pitching and golf, Dierker said, and "the three hours of concentration, the need to put a bad hole and bad inning behind you. Darryl tends to have lapses, get distressed emotionally by a bad pitch or bad inning. I wouldn't recommend it to everyone, but I thought it was good advice for him.

"I mean, he's a key guy for us. He's pitched a no-hitter, won 15 games [in a season], but I don't believe he's put his potential together over a full season. Maybe this will help."

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Manager Bill Russell, on the Dodgers offensive struggles: "We've got some guys swinging at bad pitches, trying too hard. We'll continue to take extra (batting practice), watch videos, move people in and out of the lineup. We've had a lot of off days and that can make it hard to get your timing, but other teams have had days off and they're hitting."

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Brett Butler, with three hits, raised his average to .345 and extended his hitting streak to six games, during which he is 13 for 24. . . . Greg Gagne raised a hit streak to seven games (16 for 28) with an infield single in the second inning. . . . Raul Mondesi was four for his last 26 when he homered in the sixth. . . . Ismael Valdes is 1-2 despite a 2.49 ERA. . . . The Astros are 11-7 in a stretch of what will be 20 consecutive games against all of last year's National League playoff teams. . . . Houston third baseman Sean Berry (strained groin) is due to come off the disabled list today and play in San Diego on Tuesday night.

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