Dwelling in the bullpen of the Philadelphia Phillies is a creature of monstrous dimensions and awesome power. He stands 24'7", weighs 780 pounds and throws a wide assortment of pitches with an even wider assortment of arms. He is the Abominable Fireman, and like Pavlov's dog, he responds to the ringing of a bell (in this case, the bullpen telephone). Last season the Abominable Fireman had 29 wins, 46 saves and an ERA of 2.60 in 215 appearances. If the Phillies are to win a third consecutive East Division title, the Abominable Fireman must terrify opponents fully as much as he did last season.
Descriptions of this creature vary, probably because no one has ever been closer to him than 60'6". And just as the Abominable Snowman is also known as yeti and Big Foot or Sasquatch, the Abominable Fireman has been called Warren Brusstar, Gene Garber, Tug McGraw and Ron Reed, in which order they appear, from left to right, in the photo below.
The following information on the beast is based on the most recently reported sightings:
Garber is the bearded one with the sidearm, back-to-the-batter delivery that conceals a bewildering changeup. He is not only the most effective of the four, leading in wins (8), ERA (2.36), saves (19) and appearances (64), but he is also the best fielder.
Reed (7-5, 2.76, 15, 60) stands tall (6'6") and throws hard. He has been a pro basketball player (with Detroit in 1965-67) and a starting pitcher (with Atlanta and St. Louis in 1966-75), but since coming to Philadelphia two years ago, he has had his greatest success as a reliever.
Brusstar (7-2, 2.66, 3, 46) is 26, baby-faced, and voted most likely to challenge a hitter. A rookie last season, he is usually called upon to throw his sinker and slider in the middle innings.
McGraw (7-3, 2.62, 9, 45) is the only lefthander of the four and a screwball pitcher in more ways than one. H-is 119 career saves document his ability, and his literary accomplishments, a book (Screwball) and a comic strip (Scroogie) have attested to his unique approach to life.
The Abominable Fireman would not be so invaluable if the Phillies had more depth among their starters. "Those four guys saved our neck last year," says Manager Danny Ozark. There is little consistency in the rotation beyond Cy Young Award winner Steve Carlton (23-10) and Larry Christenson (19-6). That shortcoming could disappear if Jim Lonborg's right arm shows more zip than it did in '77, or if Randy Lerch develops as rapidly as the 24-year-old Christenson has. Otherwise, the Phillies have the best everyday lineup in the division and the most depth in the National League. Mike Schmidt (.274, 38 homers and 101 RBIs) and Greg Luzinski (.309, 39 and 130) hit the ball far, and Bake McBride (.339 after coming from St. Louis in June) and Garry Maddox (.292) hit it often. But as the last two National League playoffs have shown, not even the Abominable Fireman can help the team in October.
Because the other five teams in the division have improved dramatically, the Phillies are not likely to duplicate the 101-61 record they had in each of the last two seasons. If too much slip-page occurs, Pittsburgh could run right past them. The Pirates have all the makings of a championship team, including the most speed and the best starting rotation in the East. "I think we'll win," says Manager Chuck Tanner, but then Tanner is such an optimist that he also says he is not worrying about the loss to the Yankees of free-agent Reliever Rich Gossage and his 26 saves.
Moving skinny Kent Tekulve (10-1) from middle-inning to late relief will help offset the departure of Gossage, but who replaces Tekulve? "I don't think we can win without improving our bullpen," says starter John Candelaria. The 24-year-old lefthander is as talented as he is forthright. His 20-5 record gave him the best percentage (.800) and the lowest ERA (2.34) among league starters. He is only one of several fine Pirate pitcher. Bert Blyleven was 14-12, 2.72 with Taxas and Jim Rooker had a 14-9, 3.09 year. If Jerry Reuss and Bruce Kison come back from losing seasons, the Pirates might not even need a strong bullpen to win. Another possible starter is Jim Bibby, a free agent signee who was 12-13 in Cleveland