Ashby has always thrown hard and has always had a sharp, biting slider, but now he has developed a cut fastball that runs away from righthanded hitters. What's more, he's learning to throw a changeup.
The Phillies, who signed Ashby as an 18-year-old free agent in 1986, regret leaving him unprotected in the November 1992 expansion draft—the Rockies selected him, then traded him to the Padres last July—while protecting pitcher Kyle Abbott, who now plays in Japan, and in-fielder Juan Bell, who has since been released by both the Phillies and the Brewers. "Maybe after this year," Ashby says, "people will know my name."
Two young National League shortstops, Wil Cordero of the Expos and Jose Offerman of the Dodgers, had defining moments in their careers last week, which was good news for only one of them.
On June 28, in a matchup of National League East front-runners Atlanta and Montreal, Cordero, 22, hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth inning to cut the Braves" lead to 6-5, then singled home the game-winner in the ninth for an 8-7 Expo victory. An erratic performer his first two years in the majors, Cordero has been the best shortstop in the league this season, hitting .304 with 11 homers, 41 RBIs and a .505 slugging average through Sunday. He hit .355 in June, and he has made marked improvement on defense this year.
For Offerman, 25, the news was not so good. On June 27 the Dodgers demoted him to Triple A Albuquerque, hoping a return to the minors would shock him into working harder on his overall game and concentrating more in the field. In the last 2� years Offerman has made 90 errors, including many on routine ground balls. He didn't help his situation by throwing a temper tantrum last month when Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda made him bunt with the pitcher up next.
Offerman was hitting .210 when he was replaced by 28-year-old Rafael Bournigal, who had only 18 major league games under his belt when the season started. Dodger teammates applauded the move. "History is made," said centerfielder Brett Butler. " L.A. for the most part has made moves that were offensive-oriented. This one was made because of defense. There's not a guy with better hands in the entire organization [than Bournigal]. This has got to bring a sigh of relief from the pitchers."
The Phillies lost the heart of their lineup and the soul of their clubhouse on June 27 when catcher Darren Daulton was struck by a foul ball and suffered a broken collarbone. The next day, after catcher Mike Lieberthal was called up from Triple A Scranton/ Wilkes-Barre to replace Daulton, Phillie manager Jim Fregosi was asked how much action backup catcher Todd Pratt would see. "I wish," said Fregosi, "I'd played him last night."
...Say this about general manager Jim Bowden of the Reds: He always aims high. In search of a starting pitcher, Bowden has looked past the players who are the most readily available—Bill Wegman and Jaime Navarro of the Brewers and Zane Smith of the Pirates—and has taken a shot at obtaining the Giants' John Burkett, a 22-game winner last year....