Fernando Valenzuela, the Dodgers’ darling of the 1980s, could return to the club this spring should he accept an invitation to training camp and then make the team as a relief pitcher.
“The opportunity is there for him if he wants it,” Dodger General Manager Kevin Malone said Thursday.
“He’s pitched very well this winter. With what he’s done for the city of Los Angeles and for the Dodgers, if he wants the opportunity to come to camp, we would be willing.”
The Dodgers lost their primary left-handed relievers, Mark Guthrie and Scott Radinsky, to free agency. Valenzuela could join veterans Greg Cadaret, Chris Haney and Pedro Borbon in competition for the two left-handed relief spots Malone hopes to fill.
Valenzuela, 38, did not pitch in the major leagues last year. He attracted the attention of Mike Brito, the Dodger scout who originally signed him in 1979, by going 3-0 with a 1.44 earned-run average for Hermosillo in the Mexican winter league.
Tony DeMarco, Valenzuela’s agent, said the pitcher wishes to return to the majors.
“The Padres have expressed some interest too,” DeMarco said. “We’re going to wait and see what happens and see what Fernando decides to do.”
Fernandomania reached epidemic proportions in 1981, when Valenzuela pitched eight shutouts and led the National League in strikeouts en route to the rookie-of-the-year and Cy Young awards.
Valenzuela anchored the Dodgers’ starting rotation for a decade, and his 1,759 strikeouts trail only Hall of Famers Don Sutton, Don Drysdale, Sandy Koufax and Dazzy Vance in franchise history. Since the Dodgers released him in 1991, he has pitched for the Angels, Padres, Baltimore Orioles, Philadelphia Phillies and St. Louis Cardinals.