Reds lefthander Pete Schourek was walking along the beach in
Clearwater, Fla., this spring when he realized that someone was
staring at him. Schourek, the 1995 National League Cy Young
Award runner-up, saw a familiar, studious look on the face of
the man, who like many others before him was wondering if
Schourek was the celebrity they thought he was. Finally, as
Schourek passed to within 10 feet of the stranger, the man
blurted out, "Kramer!"
Wrong. Though the lanky, wire-haired Schourek bears a
resemblance to the out-of-work Seinfeld character played by
actor Michael Richards, there's one sure way to tell the two
apart: Schourek is gainfully employed. Eight months after
undergoing an operation on his left elbow, he will be
Cincinnati's most important player as the Reds try to contend
for the National League Central title.
With Schourek limited to 12 starts last season, the Cincinnati
rotation went 55-58 and pitched the third-fewest innings in the
league. Little wonder that the team's winning percentage fell
from .590 to .500. "After all the rehab, my arm feels stronger
than it ever has, at least since the minor leagues," the
27-year-old Schourek says. "My velocity is there already.
There's no reason why I can't get back to where I was two years
Schourek won only four games last season, or 14 less than he did
in '95 when he pitched Cincinnati into the playoffs and finished
second to the Braves' Greg Maddux in the Cy Young balloting.
Schourek's brilliant season included a home record of 13-2 with
a 1.86 ERA. Talk about master of your domain.
After Mets manager Dallas Green ran Schourek out of New York at
the beginning of the 1994 season--Green figured Schourek had the
dubious work habits of, well, Kramer--the Reds claimed Schourek
off the waiver wire and turned him over to coaches Don Gullett
and Grant Jackson, who immediately corrected a flaw in his
motion that helped add about seven miles an hour to his
fastball. Over the next two seasons Schourek, who was lighting
up radar guns at 95 mph, went 25-9.
However, after the 1995 All-Star break, Schourek's elbow became
so stiff that he didn't throw between starts. By July of last
season he could no longer endure the pain, and doctors had to
open his elbow to find the cause. When a groggy but anxious
Schourek awoke from the operation, he asked surgeon Lewis Yokum,
"Did I have the Tommy John surgery?" Yokum replied, "No,"
whereupon Schourek smiled and went back to sleep. Yokum had
removed scar tissue that had formed after ulnar nerve surgery in
"In the back of my mind I still think I could make one pitch and
my elbow might blow out," Schourek says. "I'm just trying to get
through that stage, but other than that, I feel great."
If Schourek returns to form, the Reds effectively will have
added an ace to their rotation in the off-season. Now that might
bring him proper recognition.
CF Deion Sanders
Eight triples, 24 stolen bases in 85 games two years ago
SS Barry Larkin
Last season became first shortstop to join 30-30 club
3B Willie Greene
Perennial prospect is running out of chances
RF Reggie Sanders
Has never played more than 138 games in a season
1B Hal Morris
Finished '96 with a 29-game hitting streak
LF Ruben Sierra
Hit .222 with one HR in 158 at bats with Detroit
C Ed Taubensee
He and Joe Oliver combined for 23 HRs, 94 RBIs in '96
2B Bret Boone
Led league's second basemen in fielding (.991%)
Ace John Smiley
Led team in starts (34), wins (13) and shutouts (2)
Closer Jeff Brantley
Tied for major league lead with 44 saves last season
Last season Cincinnati was the only major league team that did
not lose a game when it had the lead entering the ninth inning,
going 76-0 in that situation. (Overall, the teams taking a lead
into the ninth had a winning percentage of .952.) The Reds, in
fact, have won 80 consecutive games under those circumstances,
dating back to September 1995. It is the longest such streak by
Cincinnati since it won 104 in a row in 1923 and '24.
STAT FACTS BY ELIAS SPORTS BUREAU