Is relief pitching the final piece in the puzzle? Now that the Blue Jays have it, how will they respond to the pressure of great expectations? Is Tony Fernandez the Amadeus of shortstops? Will Ian go north with the club?
For Toronto it's time to face the music, and answer the questions. The second-best team in the league has obviously improved itself, and now all it has to do is prove itself.
The Jays have never had a bona fide stopper in the bullpen—Dale Murray holds the single-season save record with 11. Now the Jays have both Bill Caudill, who had 36 for the A's last year, and lefthander Gary Lavelle, who had 12 with the Giants. "One would have been great," says manager Bobby Cox. "But two! My life will be easier." Does Cox feel any special pressure? "Naah," he says with a smile.
Caudill, great of girth and great of fastball, likes the situation. "I couldn't be happier. I've got the job I want on a contender, and there's another guy in the bullpen who can set me up or spell me on a day when my arm is tired. They've even been playing some practical jokes on me to make me feel at home. I haven't retaliated yet, but time is on my side, and I know who they are."
The jokes have had to do with Caudill's shape. One of the players got the public address announcer to introduce "Sid Caudill," in honor of the Mets' rotund pitcher, Sid Fernandez. Then somebody replaced the nameplate over Caudill's locker with TUBBY II 36—Tubby I is catcher Ernie Whitt. When Caudill discovered the new nameplate, he went into a mock outrage and yelled, "Who put this on here? Answer me. Are you a man or a mouse?"
The next day there was a live mouse in Caudill's locker, with a sign hanging from the cage: I DID IT. Caudill has since adopted the mouse as a pet and named it Ian, after Ian Duff, the Jays' clubhouse attendant. He feeds it apples and cheese. "Only the best French cuisine for Ian," says Caudill.
Toronto gave up some good players to get Caudill (shortstop Alfredo Griffin and outfielder Dave Collins), but had easy replacements. Outfielders George Bell, Lloyd Moseby and Jesse Barfield all hit .280 or better last year with power and speed.
Griffin's understudy, Fernandez, may be even better. "I saw him make the greatest play I've ever seen a shortstop make," says infielder Rance Mulliniks. "It was in Boston, on a ball hit deep in the hole by Dwight Evans. I didn't think he could even get to it, but he caught it, flipped it across the field and nipped Evans by a step."
Dave Stieb (16-8), Doyle Alexander (17-6), Luis Leal (13-8) and Jim Clancy (13-15) constitute the basic rotation. Jimmy Key is free to start after saving 10 games last year.
The Blue Jays are no longer mice. Speaking of which, Caudill was putting Ian through the motions the other day. "Jump!" he roared. "Roll over! Eat!" Ian obeyed, although he took his time. His master, too, will be in the pen this year, under pressure to perform. Throw heat! Save games! Win pennant!