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Malone in Bind With Little Wiggle Room

This is the way Kevin Malone puts it: “If we don’t play better at the start of the second half we’re going to have to consider our options, look at modifying what we have--both from a short-term and long-term standpoint.”

That’s general manager-speak for the possibility of trades. Easy enough for the Dodger general manager to say, much more difficult to do.

He is locked into multiyear contracts and has little flexibility. Some of his players make too much money to move, while others have little trade value. “It’s been very hard to find matches,” he acknowledged as the Dodgers conclude what Malone calls “the most painful, frustrating and bewildering” half-season of his career. “I talk to other general managers every day and they all say our talent is comparable to anyone’s, but we haven’t executed and we haven’t come together as a team,” Malone said. “I keep waiting for us to win 10 or 12 in a row like the Reds and Padres did. I still think we’re capable, but we haven’t done it. I guess I take solace in that saying, ‘What won’t kill you makes you stronger.’ It’s certainly made me realize that we have a whole lot of work to do.”

Whether Malone will be able to trade Ismael Valdes or Eric Karros at this point remains to be seen. Who does he get in return? How does he wedge them into an inflexible roster?

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With little help from the farm system, he inherited a difficult task, and his biggest trade--Charles Johnson and Roger Cedeno for Todd Hundley--keeps being hurled in his face. Hundley, in fact, should throw so well.

“It was a risk we had to take,” Malone said with a hint of heat, referring to the acquisition of the rehabilitating catcher. “We were very uncomfortable starting the season with an all right-handed lineup, and there were only a couple areas where we could make changes and add a left-handed power hitter. Maybe we should have left Todd in spring training longer, but he wanted to be part of it when we opened the season. He has 12 home runs and he’s been throwing better. You can’t say we’re 10 games under [.500] because of Todd Hundley. We’re 10 games under because we haven’t executed and played to our capability.”

Having been knocked out of a start against the Atlanta Braves after only 2 2/3 innings on July 4, Orel Hershiser, 40, came back Tuesday to pitch five shutout innings in the New York Mets’ 10-0 win over the Montreal Expos. It gave Hershiser a 9-5 record, but it was much more than that.

It was his 100th victory since the 1990 surgery to reconstruct his right shoulder.

The first person he called Tuesday was Frank Jobe, who performed the operation, pioneering the process when Hershiser was with the Dodgers--as he did with Tommy John’s elbow reconstruction. An appreciative Hershiser thanked Jobe and told him that he believes he can continue to pitch at a high level.

“I’m very proud of him,” Jobe said. “He missed almost two years. It took a lot of patience and hard work to come back the way he has. It was a new process. He was the first big league pitcher to have the operation, but I would estimate there have been several hundred since. It’s done routinely now.”

And Hershiser has become the poster boy for the career-saving technique. Boy? Well, his shoulder is only 9.


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