They call themselves Canned Heat, after the rock group that was big in the mid-'70s. "You open the can, let the heat out and close the can back up," says Steve Howe. Expo Outfielder Warren Cromartie has another name for them, though. As the L.A. pitchers walked out to the bullpen in Montreal's Olympic Stadium one day last week, Cromartie called out, "There they go. The Untouchables." Cromartie then began to hum the theme from the old television show.
In 22⅓ innings Howe had yet to give up a single earned run. He attributes his untouchability to two things: 1) a weight-training program that helped add several miles per hour to his fastball and 2) coming clean about the cocaine dependence that he had last year. "I'm much more relaxed, and I'm having fun," he says. "I still have the same societal pressures, as they say, but they don't bother me anymore. Admitting my problem helped a whole ton."
In spring training the Dodgers wanted desperately to discover a righthanded short man to complement the lefthanded Howe. First they tried Niedenfuer, then Joe Beckwith, but both were found wanting. Stewart, in the meantime, was horrendous. His ERA in spring training was higher than 12, and he was getting shelled in B games.
Los Angeles has a fine pitching coach in Ron Perranoski, but one of its roving minor league instructors is one Sandy Koufax. The Dodgers asked Koufax, who is an excellent pitching mechanic, to work with Stewart after spring training. "Sandy got me to relax on my curveball and fixed my grip on my sinker," says Stewart. "He really helped to straighten me out." Through Sunday Stewart hadn't given up a run in his last 10 outings, totaling 17⅔ innings.
To think that in recent years the Dodgers have tried to. trade Stewart, Pena, Howe and Beckwith. As luck would have it, all of the deals fell through. And luck, as we know, is the residue of the Dodgers.