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One player they shouldn't have to worry about is newcomer Eddie Murray. He'll be happy in his hometown, drive in lots of runs and give the Dodgers their best defense at first since the days of Wes Parker. The team does have a bunch of nagging questions, however. Can pitcher Fernando Valenzuela come back from his shoulder injury? Can Willie Randolph, who replaces Steve Sax at second, stay off the disabled list? Can manager Tommy Lasorda find somebody to hit second? Shortstop Alfredo Griffin (.199) doesn't make enough contact, and catcher Mike Scioscia, who does make contact (.257), can't run. In addition to those worries, the Dodgers have discovered that Ramon Martinez, the rookie they were counting on as their fifth starter, has only 1� pitches (a fastball and half a curve).
No team has repeated as the winner in this division since the Dodgers did it in 1977 and '78. This year's Dodgers seem to have too many holes to change that pattern. But that's what everybody said at the start of last year's playoffs, too.
If the Reds had a little bit more of the Dodgers' heart, they would be the clear favorite in the division. Four straight second-place finishes under Rose, and one begins to wonder. When Rose was asked this spring if he still had the bridal veil Schott gave him on Opening Day last year, he gruffly responded, "It's there somewhere." His players don't want any more reminders of '88, either. "I'm tired of making that last gallant effort and coming up short." says Davis.
The Reds do have a lot of things going for them. Davis and Daniels being the biggest two. "I feel more at ease this year." says Davis, and his exuberance suggests that maybe all that talent took some getting used to. Not that Davis was any slouch last year: He won a Gold Glove in center, stole 35 bases, hit 26 homers and drove in 93 runs, 21 of them game-winners. Daniels, who won his coin toss with Schott, is also eager to prove he's more than a potential star. "If I stay healthy." he says, "I expect big things, which I won't reveal. I'm mysterious."
Cincinnati's pitching is good, if a little shallow. The Reds have four starters: 23-game winner Danny Jackson: 18-game winner and perfect-game spinner Tom Browning: fireballing Jose Rijo (160 strikeouts in 162 innings); and spongeballing Rick Mahler (279 hits in 249 innings). They also have the best lefthanded reliever in the game, John Franco (39 saves. 1.57 ERA). Says Franco, who hails from Brooklyn, "Sometimes I feel as though I'm living the moonstruck life." Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the rest of the staff.
Manager Roger Craig, a lover of Western lore, has a painting entitled Trail Boss on a wall at home, and like many of us, he stayed glued to the set watching Lonesome Dove in February. Naturally, he identifies with Woodrow Call, the trail boss who kept losing his cowhands along the way. "I knew exactly how he felt," says Craig, who lost many a player along the way in '88. Ten Giants went on the disabled list, seven had surgery, and every starting pitcher except Rick Reuschel missed at least one turn.
Craig's likely to get more of the same this year. The average age of his five starters at the All-Star break will be 34. Reuschel, the best (19-11), is also the oldest; he'll be 40 on May 16, but, despite his Willard Scott physique, he has one of the lowest body-fat ratios on the team. But the health of the Giants' pitching staff is not Craig's only concern. His bullpen stopper is Scott Garrelts, who has converted only 48 of his 88 career-save opportunities. The Giants have been working hard to bolster Garrelts' confidence and, to that end, decided not to put him through a possibly demoralizing arbitration. Has it worked? Well, in a game against the A's on March 12, Garrelts took a 7-6 lead into the ninth, faced six batters, and allowed four hits and two walks as Oakland went on to win 20-7. What hurts even more is that in the last two years the Giants have traded away Mark Davis and Pittsburgh's stopper Jim Gott.