THE PADRES' STRENGTH IS IN THEIR PITCHING
The Dodgers and Padres began the season in Los Angeles with a series that revealed a lot about both teams. In splitting four games played before more than 160,000 fans, they each scored only five runs. With PEDRO GUERRERO out for a minimum of three months, the Dodgers were expected to have trouble scoring runs, particularly against lefthanders. Everyone knows that the first three starters for L.A. (FERNANDO VALENZUELA, OREL HERSHISER and BOB WELCH) can overpower anyone: It took the Padres 29 innings to get an extra-base hit. But the point that may have been lost is that the Padres' pitching should not be underestimated.
"I honestly believe that from one to 10 we may have the best overall staff in the National League," says manager STEVE BOROS. After all, San Diego had more quality starts from its pitchers in '85 (98) than any team but the Mets (105). (A quality start is defined as any time a pitcher goes at least six innings and gives up a maximum of three runs.) For instance, DAVE DRAVECKY placed fourth in the league in quality starts behind DWIGHT GOODEN, RICK REUSCHEL and BRYN SMITH. Dravecky didn't allow a run in either of his first two '86 starts, against the Dodgers and the Reds. "He's one of those guys who'll suddenly have a big year and everyone will ask where he's been," says Boros. "But he's been a swingman." Given a permanent place in the rotation and 35 starts, Dravecky, a lefthander who breaks more right-handed hitters' bats than anyone in baseball, could move into the 17-to-20 win category.
Dravecky is not the only formidable Padre pitcher. ERIC SHOW is much better than people remember from the 1984 World Series. ANDY HAWKINS was an 18-game winner in '85. MARK THURMOND has come up with a quick slider to get the ball inside on right-handed batters. Boros is convinced that when the Padres need five starters, LAMARR HOYT will be ready. They also have a deal simmering with the Pirates for RICK RHODEN. Padres G.M. JACK McKEON asked Pittsburgh G.M. SYD THRIFT for a list of names he wanted for the veteran, but when McKeon agreed to Thrift's request for reliever GENE WALTER and two prospects, Thrift asked for time to watch them play for Las Vegas.
April 21, 1986
With RICH GOSSAGE and LANCE McCULLERS, Boros has two strikeout closers. He also has CRAIG LEFFERTS and Walter to get lefthanders. If Boros is correct about the pitching, the Padres' lack of speed and advancing age at certain positions become smaller concerns.
LOOOO IS IN FAVOR OF YANKEE YOOOTH, ETC.
As a hitting instructor, LOU PINIELLA was instrumental in giving such players as DON MATTINGLY, MIKE PAGLIARULO and BOBBY MEACHAM enough room and patience to get themselves established. Now, he's doing the same with pitchers. Piniella is opening the season with BOB TEWKSBURY and DENNIS RASMUSSEN in the starting rotation, and he suggests that he may have DOUG DRABEK up before midseason. "He gives young players the feeling that he is with them, not worried what others think," says Pagliarulo. Tewksbury and Rasmussen each won his first start last weekend against the Brewers. However, with BRITT BURNS down for the season, the Yankees will need another veteran starter. ED WHITSON is so unstable in the New York City atmosphere that Piniella will start him only on the road, using BOB SHIRLEY—11-4 lifetime at the Stadium, 2-12 in other American League parks—at home. Whitson has asked to be traded, saying that pitching in New York "is more pressure than the World Series." He continually tells stories of people tormenting him at his New Jersey home....
How much did the Burns gamble cost the Yankees? Nothing, really. The White Sox are now offering JOE COWLEY for a song, and NEIL ALLEN was a virtual throw-in. Thus the deal comes down to catcher SCOTT BRADLEY for 20-year-old shortstop MIKE SOPER, who might be in a Yankee uniform before September....
One of the most fascinating young players in the AL is Brewer outfielder ROB DEER, acquired from the Giants for two minor leaguers. The Dodgers had been trying to get Deer for two years. A hitter with tremendous power, he cleared the Comiskey Park roof in his AL debut. "It was a 1,000-foot homer—500 feet up and 500 feet out," said coach LARRY HANEY. He can run and is an accomplished outfielder. Contact is his problem. Through the Brewers' first week, he had struck out 90 times in 205 major league at bats. But among his 37 hits were 12 homers and six doubles....
Red Sox manager JOHN McNAMARA, trying to alter the stagnant, negative nature of that team's clubhouse, is asking DON BAYLOR to bring the FRANK ROBINSON/LEE MAY-EDDIE MURRAY tradition to Boston. Baylor's first duty was to sit next to wandering OIL CAN BOYD on planes. Then he was asked to institute a kangaroo court. McNamara wanted to make a TONY ARMAS-TOM SEAVER deal to further change the clubhouse, but his front office was afraid to do it without a name prospect. When G.M. LOU GORMAN asked for outfielder KENNY WILLIAMS, the White Sox dropped the matter....
Advised that DR. FRANK JOBE was performing the surgery on Pedro Guerrero, TIM McCARVER cracked, "Now he's one of the patients of Jobe."
ROOKIE INCAVIGLIA IS GETTING THE INK
The early doubters of Texas rookie slugger PETER INCAVIGLIA have been disappointed. "I expected that I would watch him and say he isn't ready, but he's the real thing," says White Sox scout ELLIS CLARY. TONY KUBEK bet one Toronto official $50 that Incaviglia will lead the league in homers. "I haven't seen batting practice like that since MICKEY MANTLE," marveled Kubek. When Ranger G.M. TOM GRIEVE was told that someone compared Incaviglia with STEVE BALBONI, Grieve said, "Balboni has never taken a swing as good as Incaviglia's in his life." Watching Incaviglia with particular interest was Pirate scout HOWIE HAAK, who signed Tom Incaviglia Sr. for the Dodgers and Tom Jr. for the Pirates....
Carl Yastrzemski spent 23 years with the same club, but his son Mike is with his second organization in his third year as a pro. Signed by the Braves, the young Yaz is now with the White Sox Double A franchise in Birmingham. In an exhibition with the parent club on April 6, he homered off bullpen ace BOB JAMES....
One of the biggest surprises of the spring was Phillies shortstop STEVE JELTZ, who was given the position when TOM FOLEY got hurt. Jeltz was the Opening Day shortstop last spring but flopped and ended up in Portland. In order to become a switch-hitter, he learned to bat lefthanded in the off-season, and in the opener he had two hits lefthanded off MARIO SOTO....
Don't be surprised if the Mets deal LENNY DYKSTRA to San Diego and put STANLEY JEFFERSON in centerfield before mid-season....
Though MATT KEOUGH may have appeared in only four games for the Cardinals last year, St. Louis, displaying admirable class, presented the current Cub pitcher with a World Series ring before the season opener in Busch Stadium....
The Mariners ran into yet another stretch of bad luck when their three best righthanded relievers—EDWIN NUNEZ, KARL BEST and ROY THOMAS—went on the disabled list to open the season. But with speed in the outfield to cover the gaps, and half a dozen regulars capable of hitting 20 homers, the Mariners apparently have come up with a team geared to the Kingdome, which has a small field....
First baseman ALVIN DAVIS discovered that, because of a broken nose suffered in the field in 1984, the sight in his right eye had deteriorated from what was once 20-10. He now wears glasses, which have earned him the nickname BOB WATSON JR.
TAKE THIS JOB AND SHOVE IT, ETC.
Granted the Players Association is more like the AMA than the United Mine Workers, but it's getting more and more difficult to find players willing to take on the important job of player representative. CHARLIE HOUGH was elected in absentia by the Rangers, then refused to accept the job, saying, "I'm anti-union." In Kansas City, DANNY JACKSON got the job because he wasn't at the selection meeting. Meanwhile, the drug-testing clauses owners are putting in contracts are turning out to be more public relations than substance. The Player Relations Committee admitted that the clauses in non-guaranteed contracts are unenforceable, so approximately 400 of the much-publicized 450 drug-testing clauses are meaningless....
Astros G.M. DICK WAGNER and new manager HAL LANIER didn't even make it to Opening Day without a difference of opinion. Lanier wanted to keep veteran reliever AURELIO LOPEZ, but he would have cost Houston its first draft choice because he is a Type A free agent. So Wagner released him....
Astros minor league pitcher MARK KNUDSON also ran afoul of Wagner in spring training. Knudson, who doubles as a sportswriter, had written a story on Nolan Ryan ("I got great quotes") for The Rocky Mountain News and had transmitted the piece from the club's P.R. office. But Wagner banned him from the office. An underling told Knudson, "You've got no business in that room. You might overhear something you're not supposed to."...
For those who question Montreal's acquisition of JASON THOMPSON, consider that the Pirates are paying $1.5 million of the $2 million owed him for the 1986 and '87 seasons. The Expos want to take some pressure off rookie ANDRES (THE GIANT) GALARRAGA, who was over-swinging all spring, and they figure that if he and Thompson get 15 homers and 80 RBIs between them, they will have gotten adequate production. In their second game of the season, the duo combined for four hits and five RBIs.
JIM FREY SAYS, MOVE OVER, OZZIE SMITH
Cubs manager JIM FREY says SHAWON DUNSTON "could be the best shortstop in the National League." Better than OZZIE SMITH? "His range is equal to Ozzie's and his arm is stronger," says Frey. At this time last year, they were comparing Dunston to OSSIE CHAVARRIA....
The legend of BUDDY BIANCALANA was dealt a blow when he was benched on Opening Day in favor of recently acquired ARGENIS SALAZAR, whose .166 career average falls short of Biancalana's lusty .194. "I think he'll hit a little more," says Royals manager DICK HOWSER, who foresees Salazar emerging as a decent offensive player....
The Royals' RUDY LAW recently joined the flock of Jehovah's Witnesses, which also includes Detroit's CHET LEMON and LOU WHITAKER and JERRY HAIRSTON of the White Sox. They all refuse to come out and stand for the National Anthem. "For the National Anthem, you worship the flag," Law explains. "I don't want to live like that."...
The Angels can't find out what's wrong with JOHN CANDELARIA's elbow. "All I know is that it doesn't feel good," said Candelaria after a two-inning debut against Seattle. "The X rays show nothing, but it must be something." His manager, GENE MAUCH, hoped he could pitch on guts alone. "I've had a lot of veterans who would move that bone chip around and keep pitching," said Mauch. "I told him, don't let it hurt."...
Jeff Leonard now wants to be known as Jeffrey Leonard. "I'm 30 years old, and my mother still calls me Jeffrey," he said.
BETWEEN THE LINES
•Rick Mahler has gotten three Braves managers off to winning starts with shutouts in their Atlanta managerial debuts: Joe Torre (1982), Eddie Haas ('85) and now Chuck Tanner. Because Bruce Sutter worked the last two innings of the '85 shutout, Chris Short and Cy Young remain as the only pitchers with three Opening Day shutouts.
•Brother Mickey of the Rangers is with his eighth different organization. In his eight major league seasons, he has a 14-30 lifetime record. However, he is the winningest American pitcher in the history of the Dominican winter league, 41-18, with 18 more victories than any other American player. He is referred to as "el legendario Mickey Mahler."
QUOTES OF THE WEEK
•"The game sure has changed since I played."—Kansas City's John Wathan, sauntering to the batting cage minutes after being retired and made a coach.
•"Unless a player is really crippled, he has to be able to participate if we're going to win."—Houston G.M. Dick Wagner, in a memo asking the team to be gutty.
•"Some players ask for a king-size bed or a water bed when they check into a hotel. All I ask for is a room near the ice machine."—Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner, who needs ice for chronic ankle and elbow injuries.
•In the off-season, Yankee manager Lou Piniella changed the name of his Woodbridge, N.J. pub from Sweet Lou's to Winners, which after one week the Yankees (5-1) were.
•Shown a tabloid headline in which "The Boss" criticized him for a bad offensive spring, Yankee third baseman Mike Pagliarulo replied, "The only boss I know is Bruce Springsteen."
When the Boston Red Sox took batting practice in Tiger Stadium the day before the season opener, players contended that home plate wasn't correctly aligned. They claimed that it was turned two inches toward right centerfield, a judgment confirmed by Wade Boggs after he studied it from his knees. Grounds-keeper Frank Feneck told the Red Sox it was "an optical illusion" and refused to change the plate despite their protests.
LIFE WITH THE BUCS
The Pirates, who led the majors in losses in 1985, started off the 1986 season against Dwight Gooden, against whom they are now 0-5 and have batted .166. Their second game was snowed out. Then they found out a convention had knocked them out of their hotel rooms in Philadelphia this week, sending them to New Jersey for accommodations.
SCOREBOARD MESSAGE OF THE WEEK
Oakland, Opening Night: "Out-of-town score from Carmel. Eastwood 1,712, Townsend 663, seventh inning."
•One-third of the Cardinals are switch-hitters: Ozzie Smith, Willie McGee, Vince Coleman, Tommy Herr, Jerry White, Jose Oquendo, Terry Pendleton and John Tudor.
•When the Texas Rangers won their opener against Toronto, they went over .500 for the first time since July 25, 1983. When the Giants won their first two, they moved two games over .500 for the first time since July 1983.
•When the Indians signed Phil Niekro, their projected starting rotation—Ken Schrom, Tom Candiotti, Neal Heaton, Jose Roman, Rich Yett—had fewer major league appearances (258) than Niekro has wins. Asked about scouting Niekro, G.M. Joe Klein cracked, "If his arm is attached to his shoulder and he isn't biting his fingernails, what else do you look at?"
•Dodger pitcher Orel Hershiser has hired Steve Garvey—actually the Garvey Marketing Group—to promote his off-field activities. Garvey's outfit has already lined up a milk commercial.
•Including his two outings in 1986, John Tudor has made 21 starts in Busch Stadium with these results: 18 wins, 0 losses, 166‚Öî innings, 118 hits, 23 walks, 101 strikeouts and a 1.23 ERA.
•Last year, when the Cardinals stole 314 bases, their first steal was by Joaquin Andujar. This year their first was by catcher Mike Heath, obtained for Andujar.
BALL PARK FIGURES
Here are the leaders in various categories so far in the 1980s:
BATTING (MIN. 1,500 ABs)
Wade Boggs .351
Tony Gwynn .325
George Brett .3231
Don Mattingly .3227
Rod Carew .314
RUNS BATTED IN
Eddie Murray 649
Mike Schmidt 607
Jim Rice 596
Cecil Cooper 595
Dave Winfield 591
MVP VOTES (AND AWARDS)*
Eddie Murray 1,088 (0)
Mike Schmidt 957½ (2)
Dale Murphy 739½ (2)
George Brett 619 (1)
Rickey Henderson 572 (0)
Mike Schmidt 223
Dale Murphy 191
Tony Armas 187
Eddie Murray 179
Reggie Jackson 161
Jack Morris 102
Ron Guidry 95
Scott McGregor 94
LaMarr Hoyt 90
Steve Carlton 89
CY YOUNG VOTES (AND AWARDS)*
Steve Carlton 280 (2)
Dan Quisenberry 208½ (0)
Dwight Gooden 165 (1)
Bret Saberhagen 127 (1)
Rollie Fingers 126 (1)
*There are more voters in American League elections