Frustrated Dopson Preparing For Next Year

Hurler From Finksburg Progresses After Surgery

September 29, 1991|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,Staff writer

BALTIMORE — After two nights of steady rain in Baltimore -- resulting in two postponements -- Boston Red Sox manager Joe Morgan was asked how it feltsitting and watching the Toronto Blue Jays win.

"Frustrating," hesaid Wednesday. "But we'll get our chance."

Those two rainy nights earlier this week reflect the past two seasons for Sox pitcher John Dopson of Finksburg, who has spent much of them on the disabled list in rehabilitation.

Morgan's reply also applies to Dopson's situation: "It's been a long year for John. He's put some great effort getting back and is in great shape.

"(Next year), it will be up to him. Unfortunately, he's got to prove himself all over again, but it looks like he's pitching as good as he ever has."

Coming off surgery to replace ligaments in the elbow of his pitching arm last year in August, the 28-year-old right-hander is happy to be back traveling with the club.

It was the second time Dopson had surgery on his throwing arm. In August of 1986, he had arthroscopic surgery on his shoulder.

"The arm is feeling great, and I'm throwing with no pain," Dopson said.

"I just need to get some inningsin to get back in the groove of things. The surgery takes about 12 months to heal completely, and I was a little ahead of schedule.

"I'm close to where I was. my velocity is just about where it was -- around 87 (miles per hour), and I'm feeling good."

Which leads to the next question, as asked by Baltimore Orioles designated hitter Sam Horn -- who once played with Dopson in Boston -- as he strolled by the Red Sox dugout.

"We gonna see you this series, John? I need some(RBIs)," Horn said jokingly before wishing his former teammate well.

Chances are, we won't see much of Dopson on the mound the remainder of this season with the Red Sox in the middle of a pennant race with the Blue Jays.

"It wouldn't be fair to him or the team," Red Sox pitching coach Bill Fischer said.

"He's been in rehab all year. Next spring he'll get his chance. He's throwing as good as he ever has. When his arm is healthy, he's a very good pitcher."

He did get an inning's worth of work earlier this month in a game the Red Sox were up big, giving up two runs on a walk and a couple of hits.

"It was the last inning of a game that we were up 17-4 or so," Dopson said.

"It was a strange feeling coming out of the bullpen, because I've always been a starter.

"But if I have to go to the bullpen to get back to where I was, I will. I just like playing this game so much, it keeps me going."

Dopson is happy to be back with the club andknows it will take more time for him to regain the form he had when he went 12-8 with a 3.99 ERA in 1989.

"It's frustrating. I'd like to get in there and do well for the team," he said. "But I can see how they want to go with what got them here.

"I'm up here to get my feet wet and get back ready for next year. But for now, I'm just going to try to stay as sharp as possible and be ready if the team does decide to use me."

Coming back to Baltimore is always a special feeling for Dopson.

"It's been a year-and-a-half since I've been here(Memorial Stadium)," Dopson said. "It always feels good to come backhere.

"The other night I gave out about 30 passes to friends and family to see the game. I got a chance to meet up with my old high school catcher (Tim Kotula at Delone Catholic in Hanover, Pa.), and it just makes me feel good to see them all here."

Dopson knows he hasmuch more hard work ahead of him. He expects to be at or near 100 percent when spring training rolls around.

"This winter I'm going tohave to work hard. I need to get a ton of innings in to be ready forspring training. I'll play in the instructional league and go from there."

Dopson said he's "glad the past two seasons are behind me."

"It's a terrible feeling not being able to pitch," he said. "I know I can throw in the majors; it's just a matter of getting completely healthy."

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