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It's nice for Fingers, who earned two saves in less than 24 hours on April 14 and 15, even to be pitching again. The 37-year-old Fingers, who's the major league's alltime save leader (303), blew out his arm in September 1982 during Milwaukee's drive to the American League pennant. When he had pain at the beginning of the '83 season, he paid a visit in Los Angeles to Dr. Frank Jobe, baseball's orthopedic superstar.
"He told me before the operation that it might be like a Tommy John operation, where he'd use the tendon from my left wrist to replace the ligament in my pitching elbow," Fingers says.
But in fact a muscle had torn away from the bone. Jobe reattached the muscle last June 10 and removed some bone spurs, and Fingers did the rest. He started throwing in January, took his time in spring training and then proved to his manager, Rene Lachemann, that he could still qualify as a stopper when he worked three times in five days just before the season began.
He blew a save opportunity against Oakland on Opening Day, but that was a case of bad luck, not bad elbow. It was against the Royals that he pitched those back-to-backers. "My arm was a little stiff the next day," said Fingers, who'll be limited to 30 pitches-per-appearance by Lachemann, "and I'm sure there'll be days when I'm not able to pitch. But if I can get through the rest of the season I think I can pitch a couple more years."
The Dodgers, who used to crush lefties when they had righthanded hitters Steve Garvey, Ron Cey, Dusty Baker and Davey Lopes, now have a southpaw jinx. L.A. was 9-21, worst in the NL, against lefties in 1983. So far this season they're 2-5. They certainly need production from Pedro Guerrero, who may be pressing in an attempt to prove he's worth the five-year, $7 million contract he signed in the off-season. Guerrero had only three RBIs in his first 60 at bats through Sunday.
"He's frustrated and embarrassed," said Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda.
Expos righthander David Palmer, who missed all of the '83 season because of elbow trouble, has returned to baseball but good. In his first start, on April 7, Palmer pitched five innings and hit a home run in Montreal's 7-2 victory over Atlanta. Then, last Saturday night in St. Louis, Palmer became only the fourth pitcher in history to get credit for a perfect game that went fewer than nine innings as the Expos beat the Cards 4-0 in the second game of a doubleheader that was called after five innings because of rain.
Palmer, who had reconstructive elbow surgery on Sept. 17, 1982, joins the Twins' Dean Chance (1967), the Philadelphia Athletics' Harry Vickers and the St. Louis Cardinals' Edwin Karger (both 1907) in the select circle of those who have pitched "mini-perfectos."
An ironic postscript: The loser was Bob Forsch, who had thrown the NL's most recent no-hitter last September.