The Fall of Oz
The loss of shortstop Ozzie Guillen, who suffered a season-ending knee injury on April 21, will undoubtedly hurt the White Sox. But his replacement, Craig Grebeck, is "one of the most underrated players in the league," according to Rangers manager Bobby Valentine. Tiger manager Sparky Anderson, another Grebeck fan, says, "I love him. He's better offensively [than Guillen]." One clue to Grebeck's value: This spring he and pitcher Wilson Alvarez were the White Sox players most often inquired about by teams looking to deal with Chicago.
White Sox manager Gene Lamont says Grebeck was the best utility infielder in baseball last year. Grebeck also showed surprising pop at the plate—he hit .281 with six homers in 224 at bats. Still, questions remain about his ability to play every day because, at 5'7", 147 pounds, he is the American League's smallest player. Overcoming doubts is old hat for Grebeck. "It's tough even to get signed when you're small," he says. "Scouts don't want to sign you because they're afraid of making a mistake. But I don't consider myself small; I think of myself like I'm six-foot-one."
Those who think Grebeck's durability could be a problem should keep in mind that Guillen weighs only 150 pounds and had been one of the most durable players in the game before his collision with leftfielder Tim Raines knocked him out for the year. Guillen played at least 149 games in each of the past seven seasons.
Jones Is Keeping Up
A big reason that the Astros were atop the National League West at week's end was the work of closer Doug Jones, 34, whose career has been suddenly revived. He was 1-0 with a 1.15 ERA, six saves and 20 strikeouts in 15? innings for the season. Jones, who is the Indians' all-time save leader, was not tendered a contract by Cleveland after last season, during which he had only seven saves in 32 relief appearances and was sent down to Triple A Colorado Springs for 6� weeks. The Indians balked at Jones's $2 million-per-year contract, so he signed a minor league contract with Houston in the offseason, and he will be paid $750,000 this year.
"I told Art [Howe, the Astros' manager] this spring that Doug would be the best find of '92," says Sparky Anderson. "We really wanted him. He's got good stuff. They're not going to hit that changeup in that league. He'll make the All-Star team."
Jones saved 112 games as the Indians' closer from 1988 to '90 but was hit hard (6.67 ERA) in the first half of '91 before getting sent down to the minors. When he returned, he was put in the starting rotation. He was 3-1 with a 3.66 ERA and one save in five appearances, four of them starts.
"People said I lost my changeup, but I didn't lose my changeup; I just lost work," says Jones. "At the beginning of last year we had a tough time getting a lead. Late in games I was told not to throw, not to get my work in, because I might be needed in the game. I lost arm strength, my velocity went down, and my sharpness went. When I went to Colorado Springs, I threw every day for two weeks."
Jones said he picked the Astros over the A's, who also wanted him, because Houston has a young team and was looking for an experienced pitcher to help its young staff. "Apparently some veterans here were reluctant to share with the younger players their abilities and techniques," says Jones. "I like doing that."