Which way Tony Cloninger? One minute the Braves’ righthander appears to be his old hard throwing, effective self, then the Giants kayoed him with a six and five run innings on June 10. The matter is of some concern to Manager Billy Hitchcock and the Braves, especially if they expect to make any kind of mid-season rush for the top of the National League. Hitchcock thinks Cloninger has fully recovered from all his various early-season ailments and said as much after he beat the Giants, 7-0, on June 22. “Tony’s back,” announced the Braves’ manager.
Not too much for the average pitcher, but Cloninger had to sit out 40 days this season with various ailments, one very serious. First, Tony pulled a muscle in his right shoulder at Los Angeles back on April 26, and he missed a couple of turns. Before he got another chance, along came a virus. Shelved again.
An eye infection resulted from the virus, and nobody knew exactly how serious it was and there was concern that he could even go blind. He was finally placed on the disabled list May 15 and sent home to rest and told to wear dark glasses to protect his sensitive left eye. Cloninger is not the sitting-around type. Before the 21 days were up, it was apparent he was going to be all right and asked to begin workouts.
But after a sparkling April, 40 days can’t be made up overnight. “This has been just like spring training all over again for Tony,” said Hitchcock. “He’s worked hard, but you have to get in shape to pitch right out there on the mound, in a game. You can’t do it on the side. I don’t care how hard you work.” Cloninger’s return gave the Braves their first clear-cut starting pitching rotation since season’s beginning. Phil Niekro, who has been moved from the bullpen to a starting spot, All-Star Denny Lemaster, Pat Jarvis and Ken Johnson are the other starters.