On a gray March morning, as the grounds crew tried to burn the infield dry at Sun City Stadium, the Milwaukee Brewer pitching staff worked out on the rain-drenched outfield grass. Between sprints, Rollie Fingers slung a handful of mud at Randy Lerch, who ducked. Lerch came up tackling Fingers, who fell on his left shoulder. "It felt like someone stuck a knife in me," said Fingers, who was rushed to the hospital. Brewer G.M. Harry Dalton said, "Well, men will be boys."
No one in the Brewer camp could be blamed for seeing the pennant flash before his eyes as Fingers went for X rays—but they revealed only a slight separation. Fingers won't miss any regular-season games, and that's a good thing for the Brewers. Last year he won both Cy Young and MVP honors by pitching Milwaukee into the postseason with a 6-3 record, 1.04 ERA and 28 saves, the most in the majors. This year the primary task for Brewer Manager Buck Rodgers will be to see that Fingers is rested enough over a full season to pitch well in September.
"Rollie is a luxury we never had before," says Pete Vuckovich, who shared the league lead last season with 14 wins, six of them saved by Fingers. "The important thing is not to fall in love with the fact that he's there. We need to go nine innings more often."
Milwaukee had fewer complete games (11) than any team in the league except Seattle in 1981, reflecting Rodgers' quick hook, or Fingers' presence, or the consequences of having a staff with a 3.91 ERA, 12th in the league.
The Brewer pitching staff remains essentially unchanged, with Vuckovich, Mike Caldwell, Moose Haas, Bob McClure and Lerch starting and Jamie Easterly and Jim Slaton caddying for Fingers in the bullpen.
The Brewers' major change sends Paul Molitor from center to third, his fourth position in five years. The early indications were that Molitor will work out well and give the Brewers the best infield in the league, with Robin Yount at short, Larry Gantner at second and Cecil Cooper at first. Gantner has the fastest pivot in the league and led AL second basemen with 95 double plays last year. All told, the Brewers topped the majors with 135 double plays. The outfield has Gorman Thomas back in center, Ben Oglivie in left and Mark Brouhard in right.
The Brewers should be more productive in '82 if only because Catcher Ted Simmons, Oglivie and Molitor, among others, had off years in '81. DH Larry Hisle has missed most of the last three seasons with a pair of shoulder injuries but is no longer ailing. But pitching is indispensable and, with a lack of proven depth, the Brewers must once again work their Fingers to the bone.
Despite opinions to the contrary, County Stadium isn't a good home run park. In 1981 Robin Yount hit 10 homers—only one in Milwaukee. In '81 and '82 Ben Oglivie hit 18 of 55 at home. Gorman Thomas has hit more home runs on the road for three straight years—56 to 48. In the last five years Milwaukee pitchers have allowed 279 homers at home, and 337 on the road.