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Inside Baseball

April 06, 1998
April 06, 1998

Table of Contents
April 6, 1998

Leading 0ff

Inside Baseball

CUMMINGS AND GOINGS

This is an article from the April 6, 1998 issue Original Layout

Just moments after telling young prospects Todd Dunwoody and
Kevin Millar last week that they were being sent down, a subdued
Jim Leyland sat in his office at Space Coast Stadium in Viera,
Fla., glumly recalling a spring 35 years ago when he was a young
catcher invited to the Orioles' minor league training camp in
Thomasville, Ga. While the Marlins manager acknowledged that he
was never big league material, he still remembers vividly how
manager Earl Weaver had watched him warm up pitchers for days
and then walked up to Leyland and said, "Son, you need to go
home and find another line of work."

"It's not a nice feeling to be told you're not good enough,"
Leyland said. "That's why I've always hated spring training,
because it seems like you're always telling someone that they're
traded or cut or some other bad news. It breaks their heart, and
there's nothing you can say that gives them much consolation."

As spring training wrapped up last week, 30 big league managers
finalized their rosters by delivering good news and bad news to
scores of players both young and old. The following are among
the most interesting eleventh-hour transactions.

Diamondbacks release right-hander Hector Carrasco.

Throughout spring training it appeared that Carrasco was being
groomed to be Arizona's closer. However, despite a 3-0 record
and a 3.86 ERA in Cactus League play, Carrasco was cut on March
25. The knock on him: His 95-mph fastball is too flat, and he
has yet to develop a second pitch. He doesn't have enough
command of his slider to spot it for strikes early in the count,
so he tends to fall behind. That, in turn, makes his predictable
heater even more vulnerable.

Still, it's odd to see an expansion team cut a 28-year-old
pitcher who throws 95 mph, and then hear the club's manager,
Buck Showalter, explain by saying, "He got rostered out."
Arizona has shown no reluctance to spend money, but the
Diamondbacks did save more than $500,000 by releasing Carrasco
before Opening Day. The closer job now falls to unproven Felix
Rodriguez, a former catcher in the Dodgers chain, who has
pitched only 56 2/3 major league innings and has never recorded a
save.

White Sox sign Wil Cordero to one-year deal with option for '99.

The franchise that has treated us to wacky sideshows from
Michael Jordan to Bo Jackson and George Bell to Albert Belle
vowed this winter that it was through with distractions.
Apparently that promise was just a distraction, because on March
23 Chicago welcomed Cordero, who was arrested last June 11 for
allegedly striking his wife, Ana, and threatening to kill her,
then pleaded guilty to four charges on Nov. 3, including assault
and battery with a dangerous weapon. Now Cordero's ugly
reputation precedes him everywhere he goes.

Despite the best season of his career--he hit .281 with 18
homers and 72 RBIs for Boston last year--the Red Sox released
him on Sept. 28. In late February, Yankees general manager Brian
Cashman expressed interest in signing Cordero, a move that
generated such negative public reaction in New York that Cashman
stopped pursuing the 26-year-old infielder-outfielder just days
later. Cordero phoned new White Sox skipper Jerry Manuel, who
had managed him at Double A Jacksonville in '90 and later
coached him in Montreal. Manuel invited Cordero to the White Sox
camp for a couple of days of evaluations, and then Chicago
signed him to a $1 million deal that requires him to undergo
weekly counseling.

Alas, Cordero has already become a distraction. On March 25 he
was scheduled to report to camp in Tucson but didn't show up
because his estranged wife had gone into labor with their second
child, who was born with a minor deformity that required hand
surgery, delaying Cordero's departure from Puerto Rico.

Cordero will be assigned to Double A Birmingham to work himself
into shape. The next question is whether Cordero can play first
base, the only position available to him in Chicago but one he
has played just once in his career. The White Sox don't seem
concerned about the potential upheaval that will attend
Cordero's arrival in Chicago. As general manager Ron Schueler
says, "Look at his numbers. Who couldn't use a bat like that?"

Athletics sign free agent Kevin Mitchell to one-year contract.

At the beginning of March, Mitchell was playing shortstop on a
San Diego slo-pitch softball team and thinking his baseball
career was history. Then on March 9 he was signed by Oakland
after a glowing recommendation from his friend Dusty Baker, the
Giants manager.

Since the start of the '92 season Mitchell, 36, has played for
the Mariners, Reds, Fukuoka Daiei Hawks, Red Sox, Reds again and
Indians; he has had just 265 major league at bats during the
past three seasons. This off-season Mitchell got his weight down
to around 245 in hopes of getting one more chance. He made an
excellent first impression on the Athletics by hitting a pair of
home runs in his first spring game.

Expected primarily to be the DH against lefthanded pitching,
Mitchell could also see time in the outfield and at first base.
Oakland hopes he can add some pop to a lineup that has been
lacking righthanded power since last July's trade of Mark McGwire.

Indians release second baseman Carlos Garcia.

What happened to this guy? He played in the 1994 All Star Game
and hit .285 as recently as '96. Now his baseball future is in
jeopardy. After being traded from the Pirates to the Blue Jays
in November '96, Garcia hit just .220 in 350 at bats last
season, unable to adjust to the American League's emphasis on
the breaking ball. His rapid decline led to rumors that Garcia
is older than the 30 years he claims to be. Says Toronto general
manager Gord Ash, "His physical skills just went."

Indians general manager John Hart signed Garcia during the
winter, only to watch him battle through the spring hitting
.192. Hart eventually replaced him with the 35-year-old Shawon
Dunston.

Phillies release outfielder Midre Cummings.
Red Sox claim Cummings.
Cummings declines to report, elects free agency.
Reds sign Cummings to minor league contract.
Reds sign Cummings to major league contract.
Reds ask waivers on Cummings.
Red Sox claim Cummings.

While Cummings, 26, has hit .300 or better in five minor league
seasons, he has been a profound disappointment in the majors,
where he has batted .244. He did hit .303 with the Phillies
after being claimed on waivers from the Pirates last July, but
Philadelphia was so put off by his poor attitude and work habits
that they traded for outfielder Doug Glanville and released
Cummings.

After refusing a minor league contract from Boston, Cummings had
just two hits in 22 at bats with Cincinnati this spring and
found himself rejected by yet another organization. "Midre is
hard to figure, and I think we're wasting our time and energy
when we try," said Phillies hitting instructor Hal McRae, who
worked with Cummings in camp.

After his woeful performance with the Reds, Cummings was
relieved when the Red Sox guaranteed him a spot on their 25-man
roster, which might say less about Cummings than it does about
the Boston outfield. "I have a lot of mileage," Cummings says.
"I'm more in driving shape than in baseball shape right now."

COLOR PHOTO: RICH PILLING/MLB PHOTOS CLOSED OUT Carrasco, the projected closer for first-year Arizona, was a surprise cut. [Hector Carrasco pitching]COLOR PHOTO: RICH PILLING/MLB PHOTOS SCALPED The Indians dropped second baseman Garcia (above) for the 35-year-old Dunston. [Carlos Garcia fielding]