Worrell Closes Door on Career

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Free-agent pitcher Todd Worrell, the Dodgers' all-time save leader who was often booed last season as he struggled to retain his role as closer, retired Thursday after pitching in 11 major league seasons. He appeared in 617 games--all in relief.

Worrell, 38, was not available for comment, but his agent said the three-time all-star pitcher wants to spend more time with his family.

A former rookie of the year with the St. Louis Cardinals, Worrell pitched for the Cardinals from 1985 through 1992 before signing with the Dodgers as a free agent.

Worrell's wife and four children remained in St. Louis while he pitched for the Dodgers.

"He's been playing baseball for 16 years, and he just decided he doesn't want to lose anymore time with his kids," said Worrell's agent, Rich Bry. "The last couple of years Todd played, he told me that he knew the time was coming for him to be home with them more. . . . He's putting the love for his family ahead of his love for the game now."

In five seasons with the Dodgers, Worrell saved 127 games, breaking Jim Brewer's record of 125. The hard-throwing right-hander had his best season in 1996, breaking his own Dodger single-season record and tying for the league lead with 44 saves.

Worrell finished his career with a record of 50-52 and 256 saves, tied for 11th in baseball history. He saved at least 30 games in his final three seasons with the Dodgers and six times overall, including 35 last season. On Sept. 5, Worrell broke Brewer's record in saving the Dodgers' 7-4 victory over the Florida Marlins at Dodger Stadium.

"Todd saved a lot of games for the Dodgers and we will always appreciate his contributions," Executive Vice President Fred Claire said.

But although Worrell tied for fourth in league in saves last season, he had problems finishing games. Worrell had nine blown saves, second in the league to Greg McMichael of the New York Mets with 11.

Worrell was 2-6 with a 5.28 earned-run average, and he gave up 12 home runs in only 59 2/3 innings. Several were devastating to the Dodgers, wiping out leads and ending games.

The low point for Worrell came on Aug. 25 in the second game of a doubleheader against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Three Rivers Stadium. On consecutive pitches in the ninth inning, Worrell gave up home runs that turned a 3-1 Dodger lead into a 4-3 defeat.

His inability to keep balls out of the stands forced Manager Bill Russell to try Darren Dreifort and Scott Radinsky in the closer role during September as the Dodgers fought, and failed, to win the National League West title. Worrell didn't lose his job completely, but his opportunities dwindled as Russell and pitching coach Dave Wallace decided they couldn't rely on their all-star closer with the season on the line.

"This [retirement] doesn't have anything to do with how the season ended with the Dodgers or that he couldn't still pitch effectively, because he definitely still can," Bry said. "There were clubs out there who wanted him and he knew that, but he just felt this was the right time for him."

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Worrell's Career

Regular-season career statistics for Todd Worrell, who retired Thursday. He didn't pitch in the majors in 1990-91 because of arm trouble: *--*

Year Team G IP W-L SV BB SO ERA 1985 St Louis 17 121 2/3 3-0 5 7 17 2.91 1986 St Louis 74 103 2/3 9-10 36 41 73 2.08 1987 St Louis 75 94 2/3 8-6 33 34 92 2.66 1988 St Louis 68 90 5-9 32 34 78 3.00 1989 St Louis 47 51 2/3 3-5 20 26 41 2.96 1992 St Louis 67 64 5-3 3 25 64 2.11 1993 Dodgers 35 38 2/3 1-1 5 11 31 6.05 1994 Dodgers 38 42 6-5 11 12 44 4.29 1995 Dodgers 59 62 1/3 4-1 32 19 61 2.02 1996 Dodgers 72 65 1/3 4-6 44 15 66 3.03 1997 Dodgers 65 59 2/3 2-6 35 23 61 5.28 Totals 617 693 2/3 50-52 256 247 628 3.09

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