Tom Verducci's View

April 20, 2003

HO NO!

In December 2001 the Rangers gave free-agent righthander Chan Ho
Park a contract befitting an ace--five years, $65 million--even
though Park had never been one, had tended to shrink from that
kind of responsibility and, outside of pitcher-friendly Dodger
Stadium, had had marginal success. At week's end it was clear
that after 28 starts for Texas--14 of which had lasted fewer than
six innings--Park is no ace. He may not even be a starter for
long. After three starts this year he was 1-2 with a 9.28 ERA.
(New manager Buck Showalter decided early in spring training to
go with Ismael Valdes on Opening Day because of Park's fragile
makeup.) Says one scout, "They ought to send him [to the minors].
He's throwing 88, 89 mph, way down from where he used to be. So
now he's afraid to throw his fastball. He's become a
breaking-ball pitcher."

FREE WILY

Outfielder Wily Mo Pena is a 21-year-old power hitter who whiffed
once every three at bats with Double A Chattanooga last year and
isn't ready for the big leagues. So why is he rotting on the
Reds' bench as their sixth outfielder? He's out of options,
thanks to the major league contract he signed with the Yankees in
1999. Another club might claim Pena if Cincinnati tries to pass
him through waivers to the minors, and he's too good to risk
losing. So Pena, hitless in five at bats through Sunday, is
caught in purgatory. G.M. Jim Bowden likens Pena to Sammy Sosa.
Former manager Jack McKeon made the same comparison about Mike
Cameron when he was traded to Seattle.

WHAT'S GOING ON?

Pitching lines for Cy Young winners Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux
and Pedro Martinez last week:

IP H R ER BB K

Johnson 4.2 10 10 10 2 4
Maddux 5.2 12 10 7 3 7
Martinez 4.1 9 10 10 4 5

PURE ESSENTIALS

The three things Yankees first baseman-DH Jason Giambi takes on
every road trip.

1. Protein powder

2. Portable DVD player

3. Grooming clippers, "because the boss [George Steinbrenner] is
always getting on me about too much facial hair."

GRILLED FISH

The heat has been turned up on Marlins manager Jeff Torborg, who
despite his friendship with owner Jeffrey Loria is working with
little job security. Torborg was effectively put on notice before
the season started when Florida president David Samson said the
team should win 91 games (12 more than last year). According to a
source, Samson and G.M. Larry Beinfest met with Torborg last week
and discussed the possibility of reassigning pitching coach Brad
Arnsberg, a close Torborg ally. "All of it is untrue," Loria said
when asked about reports of infighting. "We want to improve our
team ERA [4.36] from last year."

SHORT HOPS

Hitters are adjusting to World Series phenom Francisco Rodriguez,
the 21-year-old Angels righthander. When they recognize the spin
from the rookie reliever's slider, they don't swing, waiting to
jump on a fastball instead. Rodriguez's tight slider typically
breaks out of the strike zone. As one scout says, "If you see his
slider, don't swing, because you're probably not going to hit it
anyway." Now Rodriguez will have to adjust and throw his breaking
ball to spots rather than relying on its tilt alone.... Only
Montreal and Florida stole more bases in the NL last year than
Cincinnati. The Reds, however, did not attempt a stolen base in
their first eight games this year, then were caught stealing on
both attempts in their ninth game.... A tip-off on Greg Maddux's
struggles: He rarely throws that signature fastball that starts
at a lefty's hip and tails back on the inside corner. Said one
concerned Brave, "What's scary is this is the first time he can't
make adjustments to get the ball to go where he wants it."

COLOR PHOTO: CHRIS CARLSON/AP (PARK) Park has been a bust. COLOR PHOTO: EZRA SHAW/GETTY IMAGES (PENA) COLOR PHOTO: ALAN DIAZ/AP (TORBORG)

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)