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Dodgers Conquer Phillies, Anxieties

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Dodgers thought the chaos was behind them, and that they could again focus on baseball.

But as tonight’s trading deadline nears, the wild times have returned.

Players repeatedly are checking their dressing stalls, hoping their bags haven’t been packed and shipped. The mood in the clubhouse is tense because the Dodgers realize that Interim General Manager Tom Lasorda is fervently working on deals.

And after the team’s dizzying moves in the first half, most are anticipating the unexpected.

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Despite the uncertainty, the Dodgers played well Thursday night in a 3-1 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies before 22,890 at Veterans Stadium.

Starter Chan Ho Park (10-5) continued his impressive turnaround by pitching eight strong innings. His teammates played well behind him defensively, turning two double plays.

Closer Jeff Shaw worked a 1-2-3 ninth to earn his eighth save in as many opportunities with the team, and his 31st overall. That combination helped the Dodgers overcome the loss of center fielder Raul Mondesi--he left the game in the third inning because of back stiffness--in winning their second game in the three-game series against the Phillies.

The Dodgers pulled to within 4 1/2 games of the Chicago Cubs in the National League wild-card derby, and they open a key four-game series against the New York Mets at Shea Stadium tonight.

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They will face all-star catcher Mike Piazza for the first time since he was traded May 15, and the trading deadline is at midnight (EDT). It figures to be an interesting day, the Dodgers said.

“There’s obviously a lot going on, and that’s no secret to anyone,” said first baseman Eric Karros, who had a run-scoring double in the sixth. “We know a lot can happen, but all you can do is go out and do your job.

“You can’t get caught up in all the other stuff, although you know it’s out there. As far as [Friday] in New York goes, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens, and how it all plays out.”

According to numerous unconfirmed reports, many things happened with the Dodgers on Thursday.

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A late rumor circulated in the Veterans Stadium press box that second baseman Wilton Guerrero--the subject of trade speculation--had been traded as part of a multiplayer package to the Montreal Expos for shortstop Mark Grudzielanek and left-handed starter Carlos Perez, whom Lasorda has been actively pursuing.

The rumor began after Lasorda left his seat in the stands in the sixth and entered the visitors’ dugout, and Guerrero was removed from the game after batting in the seventh because he experienced stiffness in his left leg.

Some reporters assumed that Lasorda was informing Guerrero he had been traded.

“What are they saying?” Lasorda said, when informed of the speculation after the game. “If someone traded Wilton, I guess they just forgot to tell me about it.”

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Manager Glenn Hoffman appeared puzzled about the purported deal.

“No, really, that’s what they’re saying?” Hoffman said. “Tommy didn’t say anything, and Wilton’s going with us [to New York].”

As it turned out, Lasorda rushed into the dugout to use the bathroom. That’s not to say Guerrero is untouchable, but he isn’t on the move yet.

“When [Lasorda] went into the dugout, 14 guys thought they had all been traded,” hitting instructor Mickey Hatcher said, jokingly.

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And not surprisingly, the Randy Johnson speculation began again Thursday. The Dodgers bowed out of the derby to acquire the Seattle Mariner all-star left-hander after a proposed deal collapsed in early June.

But following the pattern, there were reports that the Dodgers were offering reliever Antonio Osuna, Guerrero and a third player, most likely a starting pitcher, in a package for Johnson. Dodger sources said acquiring Johnson isn’t at the top of Lasorda’s list, and sources throughout baseball said the New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians are the leading contenders for Johnson.

“We just play the game,” said Guerrero, who was hitless in four at-bats. “The other guys make the decisions--all we can do is our jobs.”

On a night of rumors, tension and confusion, the Dodgers did just that.

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