Fernando Valenzuela, whose adventures as a 1981 rookie wowed millions and earned him a historic Cy Young Award, is a Los Angeles Dodger no longer.
But Valenzuela, his agent and several of his now-former teammates believe he can still pitch and will find success with another team.Valenzuela has struggled during the last four years. And that was never more evident than in his final outing for the Dodgers, who placed him on waivers Thursday.
On Wednesday, he allowed eight hits and four walks, which led to eight earned runs in 3 1/3 innings against the Baltimore Orioles. Valenzuela, 30, was 1-2 with a 7.88 earned run average in 16 innings this spring as he fought for a berth on the Dodgers' starting rotation.
"I'm sorry. He was not good enough to be in the top five, and I talked to him and realized he could not pitch out of the bullpen," Dodgers manager Tom Lasorda said. "The two bad outings against Philadelphia and Baltimore convinced us it was time to decide who were the top five."
Valenzuela said the news was not totally unexpected.
"I'll be somewhere, I don't know where," Valenzuela told reporters several hours after getting the news. "I'll go back home tomorrow and relax. We'll wait and see what's going on."
Valenzuela is 141-116 lifetime with 107 complete games. He won the National League's Rookie of the Year and Cy Young awards in 1981 - the first player to win both awards in the same season - and led the league with a 21-11 record in 1986.
But with his eyes-to-the-sky delivery and his assortment of pitches, the five-time All-Star generated a craze - Fernandomania, it was called - that transcended his on-field performances.
"I will never forget Fernando and all he has done for me and the Los Angeles Dodgers," Lasorda said. "It was a privilege and honor to manage him over the years because he was without a doubt a great talent and a great competitor."
Los Angeles general manager Fred Claire had to decide whether to keep Valenzuela after it was clear that he couldn't beat out the other starters on the staff.
"This was an extremely difficult decision to make because Fernando has established himself as one of the all-time great Dodgers," Claire said. "He has pitched with great heart and tremendous ability, but we had to make a decision based on the needs of our pitching staff."
Valenzuela was in danger of being let go in each of the past two seasons. He slumped to 14-14 in 1987 and 5-8 in 1988, when he spent two months on the disabled list with shoulder problems.
He was 10-13 with a 3.43 ERA in 1989 and 13-13 with a 4.59 ERA last year, a season that included his first no-hitter, a 6-0 victory over St. Louis on June 29.