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AL Central
Tim Kurkjian
May 01, 1995
In a group of haves and have-nots, the Indians seem to have it all—or at least enough to outdistance the White Sox
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May 01, 1995

Al Central

In a group of haves and have-nots, the Indians seem to have it all—or at least enough to outdistance the White Sox

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With that pair of deep thinkers in charge, look for the Royals to use a variety of lineups, bunt a lot and play for one run at a time, which, given their feeble offense, might be all they get on many nights. The rotation was weakened by the trade of Cone, so this wasn't the ideal year to move the outfield fences in 10 feet at Kauffman Stadium. At least the artificial turf was replaced with real grass.

The TWINS have replaced departed outfielder Shane Mack, who during the strike chose financial security in Japan over fiscal chaos in the majors, with rookie Marty Cordova, 25, who three years ago was buried in Class A. "1 had long hair, a stupid haircut for baseball," he says. "I'd take BP, sit on the bench, try to sleep during games. My manager [Steve Liddle] made fun of me. I played the guitar. He'd say, 'Why don't you join a band?' It——me off. So I did something about it."

He cut his hair, stashed the guitar, started lifting weights and went from hitting .212 with seven homers and 19 RBIs for Class A Visalia in 1991 to batting .341 with 28 homers and 131 RBIs for the same team the next year. With the Twins dying for help in the middle of the order because of the retirement of first baseman Kent Hrbek and the loss of Mack, Cordova emerged this spring as their newcomer with the most clout. Not bad for a guy who worked briefly as a bouncer at a bar this spring. "I had to step between two ladies, that's as much action as I got," he says.

That's more action than Joe Oliver, the BREWERS' new catcher, saw with the Cincinnati Reds last season, when he was stricken with Reiter's syndrome, a bizarre illness caused by an infection. On April 12, 1994, Oliver's left ankle mysteriously swelled, then his right foot began to hurt, and finally his right knee started aching. "I had no idea what it was," he says. "One day I'm playing, the next day I'm on the DL for the first time, and I'm wondering, Am I done?" The pain was so great, Oliver says, "I couldn't hold up a bedsheet with my feet. I felt like an 85-year-old man."

Late last summer, radiation treatments cured Oliver, 29, who played winter ball in Venezuela to prove to the Reds he was well. But Cincinnati chose not to resign him, and the Brewers picked him up so they could move hard-hitting catcher Dave Nilsson to first base. But in keeping with the Brewers' plague of injuries in recent years—many of them peculiar—Nilsson spent most of spring training in the hospital with an affliction called Ross River fever, which he got after being bitten by a mosquito in his homeland of Australia. He isn't expected to be 100% until June. That's a big blow to a team with spotty pitching, average defense and weak hitting.

But at least Oliver is O.K. now. "I know one thing," he says. "I'm not going to Australia."

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