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Fernando even better this year

Jaime Jarrin, the Los Angeles Dodgers Spanish radio broadcaster who translates for Fernando Valenzuela, says that Mexico's version of the Pillsbury Doughboy is a more complete pitcher than he was last year. ''The big difference is that Fernando no longer relies exclusively on the screwball to get him out of trouble,'' Jarrin explained. ''He's mixing his pitches more, and not too many hitters, right now, are getting around on his fastball. I think the only thing that has bothered Valenzuela this year is the reluctance of certain National League umpires to give him the strike that's right on the hitter's knees, the way they did a season ago.''

Fernando's chances to repeat as the NL's Cy Young Award winner probably depends on what Philadelphia's Steve Carlton and Montreal's Steve Rogers do in what remains of the season. Meanwhile, the Dodgers have begun contract talks with Steve Garvey. If Steve doesn't sign with L.A., and decides to go the free agent route at the end of the season, both New York teams (the Yankees and the Mets) reportedly are poised with 5-year contracts.

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