JOSE CANSECO—REMEMBER HIM?—WAS HITTING THOSE TAPE-MEASURE shots in batting practice again last week. O.K., so he was hitting them in Huntsville, Ala.; at least the big fella was up there swinging a bat in public.
An impressive crowd of 7,165 fans showed up at Joe W. Davis Stadium on June 28 to watch 1988's American League MVP take his cuts for the hometown Stars, Oakland's affiliate in the Double A Southern League, and he rewarded them in BP with a couple of 460-foot Canseco specials. But in the game itself, his first since May 7 (which was also for Huntsville), the best he could do in four times at bat against the Greenville Braves was an infield hit.
Two days later, Canseco suffered a seemingly minor setback when he felt soreness in his injured left wrist during the opening game of a doubleheader, also against Greenville, and was lifted for a pinch hitter in the fourth inning of the nightcap.
Afterward, Canseco seemed unconcerned with his pain and pleased with his progress. "I expected some soreness," he said. "My bat speed is still slow. I'm not catching up to fastballs."
When Canseco played in Huntsville in May, he reinjured his wrist and returned to the Bay Area for the surgical removal of his hamate bone. Baseball's first 40-stolen-base, 40-home-run man hadn't played since.
The A's are hoping to get Canseco back in Oakland for the start of his major league season after a dozen or so games in Huntsville. On his return, he will join such other A's convalescents as last year's Rookie of the Year, shortstop Walt Weiss (torn cartilage, right knee) and AL Rolaids Relief Man Dennis Eckersley (strained right shoulder). Bob Welch (pulled right groin), a 17-game winner in '88, successfully returned from the disabled list last Friday, pitching five shutout innings in a 5-0 win over Cleveland, which broke a three-game A's losing streak.
The DL'ers will be happy to return to a team that, in their absence, picked up Rickey Henderson in a trade with the Yankees. The A's will, therefore, be stronger than they were before the injuries, which hardly seems possible. In the meantime, all eyes will be on the Stars of Alabama.