Luis Tiant, who pitched in Mexico during the spring and summer in oppressive heat, said he didn't want to make any alibis. But he did, anyway.
"I don't want to make any excuses," said Tiant today after a less-than-impressive return to the major leagues. "But it was real hot out there and I haven't pitched in 13 days. I could've been sharper."
Tiant gave up a three-run home run to Ron Washington in the third inning as the Minnesota Twins defeated the California Angels, 8-6.
In pitching in the majors for the first time since last October, Tiant lasted 3 1/3 innings. He struck out four of the first six batters, finishing with six strikeouts, but left after giving up four runs on five hits.
"Those first two innings were superb," California Manager Gene Mauch said. "They were really fun to watch."
"The first time up, I couldn't really get what he (Tiant) was doing," said Washington, one of five Twins to strike out in the first 2 2/3 innings. "The second time, though, he was pitching from the stretch with not so much motion and I could see his move.
"I wasn't necessarily thinking of a home run. I was just trying to see the ball and hit it hard."
Tiant, acquired by the Angels this week from Tabasco of the Mexican League, was philosophical.
"This is the big leagues, not the Little Leagues," he said. "When you make a mistake like that (Washington's homer), you're gonna get beat. If he doesn't hit it out, I might have been able to go six or seven innings, since we scored a lot of runs."
Mike Port, the Angels' vice president, said earlier this week, "Our scouting reports were very good on Tiant. Cookie Rojas, our special assignment scout, saw Luis pitch and recommended we acquire him."
"I told the people we had to have a quality pitcher," Mauch said, admitting that Tiant had never entered his mind as the person to fill that bill. "But I have a lot of confidence in Cookie Rojas."
Minnesota Manager Billy Gardner agreed with Tiant that the heat--about 85 degrees--was a factor. But he disagreed with Tiant's listed age.
"I just think the heat got to Luis," Gardner said. "He says he's 43 (Tiant's age is listed as 41), but he's actually 53. I faced him back in Cleveland in the '60s. But it's good to see him back in the big leagues. I wish him well."
When Tiant's contract was purchased Monday, he said his age was irrelevant. "I figure I can still do the job," he said then. "People worry too much about age, but it's not how old you are, it's what you can do."
Today, Tiant didn't do a lot well.
Jack O'Connor worked the first 5 1/3 innings for the Twins, allowing three runs on six hits and five walks. Jeff Little replaced him and yielded three runs in 3 1/3 innings, including Doug DeCinces' homer in the eighth. It was DeCinces' eighth homer in the last eight games.
California took a 1-0 lead in the second when Bobby Grich doubled and scored on Ron Jackson's first of three hits, a single. The Twins came back in the third, as Tim Laudner led off with a single and Bobby Mitchell drew a walk with two out.
Washington then hit a 1-0 pitch over the left field wall for his fourth homer of the year.
The Twins scored again in the fourth. Gary Gaetti doubled and scored on Hatcher's single, knocking out Tiant. Hatcher singled in another run in the sixth off Bruce Kison to make it 5-1.
Tim Foli's two-run double cut the margin to 5-3 in the sixth, but the Twins scored three times in the seventh on Kent Hrbek's sacrifice fly and singles by Gaetti and Laudner.
"This isn't the first time this has happened and it won't be the last," said Tiant, whose record in 19 years in the majors is 227-171. "There is no batter I can't get out . . . and there's no batter who can't get a hit off me, either."