New Tiger owner Tom Monaghan also owns Domino's Pizza chain, and, before the season started, every Tiger received a blue Domino's T shirt. The front of the shirt says: THE HOT ONES. And indeed the Tigers opened with an eight-game winning streak. Unfortunately, manager Sparky Anderson wore his T shirt during the first game and decided he would keep wearing it—unwashed—until the Tigers lost. Ah, the sweet smell of success.... Darrell Evans, the 13-year National League veteran who hit a three-run homer in his debut as a DH with the Tigers and another three-run shot in the club's home opener, says, "The worst thing is making the last out of the inning and waiting for someone to bring your glove. It never comes."... By the way, National League teams have ordered their minor league affiliates to forgo the use of the designated hitter when they play one another this season.
Once upon a time, Fernando Valenzuela was an overweight phenomenon. Now he's just another struggling pitcher with an ordinary waistline, having lost around 30 pounds since his rookie year in 1981. He has gone 7-10 with a 4.50 ERA since last June 13, and he's 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA after his first three starts for the Dodgers this year.
Once upon a time, Valenzuela's screwball was the most famous pitch in the game. It even had a name—Fernando's Fadeaway. Now the screwball has become a problem that won't go away. Even Ronald Reagan is concerned. When Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda visited the White House for a black-tie dinner last week, the Prez asked about Valenzuela.
What's happening? Just this: The hitters have stopped chasing those screwballs a few inches off the plate, and Valenzuela has been unable to throw the pitch consistently for strikes. When the hitters were still chasing pitches off the plate, Fernando's ordinary fastball was an out pitch. The hitters were so preoccupied with the scroogie they couldn't pull the trigger on his heater.
"He can't get his screwball over," says Braves manager Joe Torre, "and the more he realizes that he can't get it over and that guys are taking it, the more he'll try to aim it." And when you try to aim the ball, when you get tentative because of a crisis in confidence, terrible things happen to your ERA.
Lasorda, Dodger pitching coach Ron Perranoski and Mike Brito, the scout who signed Valenzuela, relate the problem to an inconsistent release point. According to Perranoski, "When Fernando does something wrong; he's dropped his arm too much." And when that happens, he throws a scroogie that's too fat or is taken for a ball.
It is a tribute to White Sox hitting coach Charley Lau, who died of cancer five weeks ago, that the club has temporarily replaced him with two coaches, Joe Nossek and Tommie Reynolds.... The Reds also have two hitting coaches, Tommy Helms for righthanders and Joe Sparks for lefthanders. The coaches split duties with switch hitters Ron Oester and Paul Householder.
It's early in the season, and the Orioles stink. So what else is new? Over the last 10 years they've been 201-106 (.655) in September-October but 86-94 (.478) in April. Characteristically, they won only two of their first eight games.
Jim Palmer thinks the reason for the rough starts is the schedule—there just aren't enough games. "The only guy pitching well for us now is Storm Davis," Palmer said last week, "and he's the only guy on the staff who's overpowering, and he's the only guy pitching regularly. When you take control and location pitchers like we've always had here, and they pitch every seven or eight days, which is what happens now, you're going to have problems."
Davis, who has started once and pitched middle relief three times, has allowed two runs in 17‚Öì innings. The rest of the Oriole pitchers have allowed 45 earned runs in 50‚Öî innings.
The Giants' Manny Trillo has averaged a home run every 103 at bats in 11 major league seasons. But this year he has looked like the second coming of Rogers Hornsby, with three homers, seven RBIs and a .364 average. "Didn't surprise me," says manager Frank Robinson. "I expected him to hit three home runs—for the season." Trillo has an odd explanation for his new clout, considering he played in Montreal and Cleveland last year. "I knew I was coming to cold weather," he says, "and I wanted to be strong, so I decided to lift weights."... The Expos' rookie outfielder, Mike Stenhouse, is the only Harvard alum in the majors. Montreal publicist Richard Griffin says, "Stenhouse calls his meal money 'accounts receivable."... San Diego's Alan Wiggins volunteered to move from the outfield to second base this spring. Though the Padres are winning, Wiggins is floundering. He has committed four errors and is hitting .205. "I'm taking my defense into the dugout," he says.... When Philadelphia opened at home last week, outfielder Glenn Wilson felt anything but at home. "My first night, I was real depressed," says Wilson, who went to the Phils in the trade that sent Willie Hernandez to Detroit. "I'm here in my home city, and I just don't know anything—where to go, what to do. So I really got depressed." Then Wilson hit a game-winning, funk-lifting single in a 7-6 victory over Houston and received a thunderous ovation. How did he feel then? "At home," he said.... Chicago's Gary Matthews, who was traded from Philadelphia during spring training, on becoming the Cubs' leftfielder: "I don't get as much beer poured on me as I did in the past."
In his last seven seasons with Atlanta, knuckleballer Phil Niekro was 1-14 in games before April 25. But in his first year with the Yankees, Niekro has won his first two games. Why the quick start? To help catchers Butch Wynegar and Rick Cerone get used to the unpredictable flutters of his knuckler, Niekro threw more of them in spring training than he normally does. Niekro says the pitch is breaking now the way it usually starts to in May.
Boo who? Perhaps Braves fans have been spoiled by their club's early successes the past two seasons. Atlanta opened 13-0 in 1982 and 7-1 in '83. As of Sunday, the Braves were 3-8, and no player has been spared the fans' wrath. Two-time MVP Dale Murphy got the treatment for striking out with two outs and the bases loaded in the eighth inning of a 6-1 loss to the Mets. Shortstop Rafael Ramirez was booed that night for making three errors. Ramirez doesn't mind, though. "You pay to see a good show," he says, "and when you no like it, you go, 'Boo, that's no good.' " First baseman Chris Chambliss is less understanding. "I don't agree with booing players," he says. "Raffy gets a lot of unnecessary criticism, and, with the talent he has, he doesn't deserve it. People make him out to be tight and scared, but he's really the opposite."
After throwing out the Red Sox' Dwight Evans when he tried to go from first to third on a line drive to left, Seattle's Gorman Thomas, who's playing despite a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder, said, "I hope they got that throw on film. I keep waiting for a buzzard to come after my arm for dead meat."... In the last 3½ months of the '83 season, California's Reggie Jackson didn't have a single game in which he drove in three runs. He has two three-RBI games already in '84. And while last year he had only 49 RBIs, so far this year he has 10.... Milwaukee's Paul Molitor hasn't been able to play third because of an elbow injury that may require surgery. But he can hit. So Ted Simmons, the regular DH, is going to try third on occasion, despite having spent virtually all 14 of his years in the majors behind the plate. You've got to like Simmons' attitude. "If they hit it at me," he says, "I should catch it. I'm a ballplayer."
Off to their best start ever, the Seattle Mariners won seven of their first 10 games and were in first place in the AL West. Though every starter had at least one win, the Mariners' chief strength has been their bullpen, despite the trade that sent stopper Bill Caudill to Oakland during the winter. The relief staff has averaged 2.7 appearances a game and has earned a save in every victory except one. Four relievers have already picked up at least one save each.
Vendors at Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium have replaced beef franks with chicken franks. "There's more value for the money," says Patrick Nilon, of the stadium's catering service, who notes that the chicken dogs are 20% larger. Philly fans aren't convinced of the value. "If I hear 'Where's the beef?' one more time," says a woman who works at a concession stand, "I'm going to put this hot dog somewhere it will hurt."
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
PETE ROSE: On Friday the 13th, 21 years to the day after his first major league hit, the Expo leftfielder tagged a Jerry Koosman fastball at Olympic Stadium for his 4,000th career hit, a double to right. Rose gave the ball to hitting coach Billy DeMars, who worked with him closely in spring training. Also last week, Rose married Carol Woliung (they are said to be expecting) and celebrated his 43rd birthday.
"The workout is optionable' " said Mets coach Bobby Valentine of an off-day practice session in Atlanta. "Whoever doesn't come gets optioned."