GOING TO THE POST
Down the stretch last season, righthander David Cone received all sorts of advice from fans on how to treat a blister on his pitching finger. "The best advice was to soak it in my grandmother's urine," he says. "Supposedly the older the person, the higher the acidic content. Someone else said use a pregnant woman's urine." Cone decided on a lotion used to toughen horses' hooves. That was fitting, considering that Cone was the Yankees' workhorse. He threw a major-league-high 229? innings last season, plus 15? more in the Divisional Series against the Seattle Mariners. After a 147-pitch effort in Game 5 of that series, Cone could hardly lift his arm. Questions about his arm strength lingered through several so-so spring training appearances. "I understand the rumors," he says. "But I'm fine. I'll be ready."
THE STEINBRENNER FACTOR
While centerfielder Bernie Williams was mired in his usual early-season slump last year (he's a career .229 hitter before June), Yankees owner George Steinbrenner ordered then general manager Gene Michael to trade him. Michael resisted, once conveniently forgetting to tell the Boss that the Giants offered Darren Lewis for Williams. Williams hit .350 in the second half, blossoming into one of the game's stars.
KENNY ROGERS ROASTED?
Because of Steinbrenner, the Yankees face obstacles other teams don't. Only with the Yankees, for instance, would lefthander Rogers, whose 44 wins over the past three years with the Texas Rangers were the fifth most in the American League, be considered a potential Terry Mulholland-like flop. Rogers is a small-town guy with a 6.47 career ERA at Yankee Stadium whose worst month is his first (6-8, 4.70 in April). Fast starts are critical in New York. "I'll need time to adjust to the cold weather," Rogers says. "After that I'll be O.K."
As one National League general manager says of this division, "Somebody paid a hell of a lot of money for the privilege of finishing third."
4. TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Since Toronto won a second straight world championship in 1993, no team has lost more games than the Blue Jays, who went 111-148 over the past two years.
Nothing symbolizes the Toronto crash better than the flameout of pitchers Juan Guzman and Pat Hentgen. In the Jays' championship seasons, they went a combined 54-19 with a 3.69 ERA. But over the last two years they were 39-47 with a 5.03. Says Guzman, "My velocity is back. I'm going to go out there and be a power pitcher again. I'm going to challenge people with my best stuff and see what happens." In spring training, Hentgen pitched well while Guzman was inconsistent.
Despite patchwork additions of some veterans, the Blue Jays are clearly rebuilding.
5. DETROIT TIGERS
LOOKING FOR A FEW GOOD MEN
This is an exploratory year for Detroit, and not just because it could have Lewis (Mark) and Clark (Tony) on the right side of its infield. "We have to find out what we have here and move forward," says new manager Buddy Bell. "Whether that takes three months or six months, we'll do it." In Bell the Tigers found the right man for a job that requires lots of patience. Bell played 2,405 games in his career without getting to the postseason. It was not until last year—his 20th season in a big league uniform—that Bell reached the promised land, as a coach of the Cleveland Indians.