Out of Nowhere
Not every pitcher in baseball has been bombarded this year; it just seems that way. Here are four hurlers who—to everyone's great surprise—have emerged as staff stalwarts.
•Mark Clark, starter, Indians. On March 31, 1993, the Cardinals traded him to Cleveland for outfielder Mark Whiten, who then hit 25 homers for St. Louis last year while Clark was giving up 18 homers in 109⅓ innings. It looked like a bad deal for the Indians. But Clark, 26, had a good September after missing almost two months with a strained muscle in his upper back, and this year, through Sunday, he was 8-1 with a 3.76 ERA. Clark's secret: He's throwing a hard slider, and he's getting big outs when he needs them.
•Marvin Freeman, starter, Rockies. He was just a gangly, goofy, gregarious reliever for the Braves from 1990 through '93, but he has become Colorado's best starting pitcher, with a 7-1 record and 3.04 ERA at week's end. After being released by Atlanta last October, Freeman signed with the Rockies and figured to be used in middle relief. But after Kent Bottenfield broke his left hand in February, a spot in the starting rotation opened for Freeman, who quickly capitalized on the opportunity to pitch regularly. And he remains the loudest man in the clubhouse. "Look to me as the clubhouse WD-40—the lubricant," says Freeman, 31. "When it's tight around here, I like to draw attention to myself, and maybe that'll help some of the other guys relax. I love attention."
•John Hudek, closer, Astros. Waived by the Tigers last July, Hudek has proved so effective for Houston this year that he won the closer's job from Mitch Williams, contributing to the Wild Thing's release. Through Sunday, Hudek, 27, was 10 for 10 in save tries, the league was batting .123 against him, and he had 26 strikeouts in 23 innings. Always a hard thrower, he did little in six minor league seasons to suggest that he was capable of this kind of performance. But now he's making good pitches, and even Williams was so impressed with Hudek that he offered to buy him a new pair of cowboy boots.
•Doug Jones, closer, Phillies. At week's end he was leading the National League in saves (18 in 19 attempts), had a 1.80 ERA and 25 strikeouts and had allowed just four walks in 35 innings. Jones got hit so hard last year that the Astros couldn't wait to get rid of him, so last December they sent him and starter Jeff Juden to Philadelphia for the troubled Mitch Williams. After the deal was made, one Phillie all but guaranteed that Philadelphia would eventually find someone other than Jones to be its closer, because the Phils couldn't bear to watch Jones "throw that 38-mph changeup." Well, Jones, who turns 37 on Friday, is once again fooling hitters with his junk.
Cardinal rightfielder Mark Whiten has the best throwing arm in the National League, and he proved it again last Thursday against the Pirates. Whiten caught a sacrifice fly off the bat of Jeff King and threw the ball at least 330 feet, on a line, to home plate. Pittsburgh's Kevin Young, who barely scored from third on the play, says he heard the ball coming, claiming it "sounded liked a missile." ...
Last Friday the Yankees dropped DH Danny Tartabull from cleanup to sixth in the order after his average had slipped to .233 and his strikeouts had soared to 68 in 236 at bats. According to one Yank, sixth is where Tartabull belongs because he doesn't like the responsibility of being the lineup's biggest run producer....
Juiced Ball Note of the Week: Phillie pitcher Danny Jackson doubled, tripled and drove in five runs while raising his record to 9-1 as Philadelphia beat the Expos 8-4 last Saturday. Only two National League pitchers have driven in more runs in a game: the Braves' Tony Cloninger had nine RBIs on July 3, 1966, and the Astros' Dave Giusti had six on Aug. 21, 1966. From 1990 through '93 Jackson had five RBIs in 185 at bats.