He has since been offered two other roles, but he declined both to take a last shot at baseball. Texas general manager Doug Melvin invited Elster to camp this spring as a nonroster player, then saw Elster show up overweight. "It wasn't a good first impression," says Rangers manager Johnny Oates. But a back injury to shortstop Benji Gil in spring training thrust Elster into the starting lineup. Now Texas will face a tough decision when Gil, who's due back on June 1, returns. Elster isn't worried. "I'll enjoy this as long as it lasts, but I don't want to play baseball the rest of my life," he says.
•Blue Jays righthander Juan Guzman, 29, has gone from terrific to terrible and back to terrific. Guzman was 40-11 with a 3.28 earned run average in his first three seasons, from 1991 to '93, but during the last two he went 16-25, and his ERA climbed to 5.99. He was especially dreadful last year, going 4-14 with a 6.32 ERA.
This year Guzman's nasty slider has been diving again, and his control—which was horrendous last year—has been sharp. He was 4-1 with a 2.12 ERA at week's end, and opposing batters were hitting .183 against him, a league low among American League starters. "He looks like the Guzman of 1992," says Brewers second baseman-centerfielder Pat Listach. "I think he throws harder than [Boston's Roger] Clemens. He's throwing 92 [mph] on the black."
Guzman credits his turnaround mostly to a healthy right shoulder, which he says he didn't have the last two years. "I couldn't do what I wanted to do," says Guzman. "It was like wanting to run but not being able to." Toronto manager Cito Gaston says that Guzman's shoulder was indeed sore but also concedes that part of Guzman's problem was his approach. "Pitchers watch that guy in Atlanta, Greg Maddux, and want to emulate him, and that isn't good for everyone," says Gaston. "I think that's what Juan did the last two years. He just wanted to paint the black. Juan is at his best when he's a thrower, not a pitcher."
•Reds centerfielder Eric Davis, 33, retired after the 1994 season, saying he had no intention of playing again. He says he was "mentally exhausted" from trying to overcome his many ailments, from knee injuries to a lacerated right kidney suffered when trying to make a diving catch in Game 4 of the 1990 World Series against Oakland, to the last straw, a herniated disk in his neck. "Starting with the second game of the '94 season, I took eight shots in my neck in three months, and the needle was this long," he says, spreading his hands at least a foot apart.
Davis stayed away from baseball entirely until Cincinnati shortstop Barry Larkin and utilityman Lenny Harris called him and asked him to come to one of the Reds' playoff games last October in Davis's hometown, Los Angeles. He stayed only three innings. "I couldn't watch the game, knowing that I could still be doing what they were doing," he says. "But that's when the adrenaline started flowing again." He spoke with Reds owner Marge Schott and general manager Jim Bowden that day about coming back and arrived at spring training with the goal of simply making the team.
He has done more than that. He won the starting centerfielder's job and was leading the Reds in home runs (six) and RBIs (23) after hitting grand slams in two consecutive wins over the Giants on Saturday and Sunday. He's thankful to be back in the majors after going more than a year without touching a bat or a ball. "If you take a year off from basketball, you can go out and shoot and scrimmage," he says. "There's no way to simulate major league baseball."
When the Braves' Greg Maddux gave up six earned runs in 8⅓ innings against the Phillies last Friday, it was the first time since June 26, 1991, that Maddux had allowed that many earned runs in a game. He also gave up his first grand slam, to Philadelphia catcher Benito Santiago, in the ninth inning. It was the first time in Maddux's 11-year career that he lost a game in which his team was leading going into the ninth....
The Padres' Tony Gwynn did something rare for him: He struck out twice in a game on April 28, against the Astros' Darryl Kile. It was the first time Gwynn had struck out twice in the same game against the same pitcher since Kevin Gross got him on June 11, 1993.