When the season started, Cleveland's rotation consisted of Nagy, Wright, Burba, Colon and, when a fifth starter is needed, Rick Krivda, who was claimed on waivers from the Orioles on March 24. "We're pleased with what we've got, even though we don't have an ace," Hart says. 'The Indians philosophy has always been about big bats, and we believe that our offense is usually going to carry the day."
In the first week of the season it did. Cleveland came back from a 9-3 deficit to win its opener in Seattle 10-9 and then defeated the Mariners 9-7 the next night. The Indians then swept three games from the Angels by a combined score of 23-6 to remain the last unbeaten team in the majors. The 31-year-old Burba picked up a victory in his first Cleveland start last Friday, and the 22-year-old Colon threw a four-hit shutout the next day.
This winter's star-crossed search for healthy and productive arms reinforced Hart's reluctance to make long-term commitments to pitchers. "It's a mistake to think you can build the perfect staff in the winter, bemuse nothing ever works out the way you want it to," he says. "But me fun part of my job is having :o adjust on the run. Sometimes it gets a little slippery at the top of the slope."
New Red Bound For Greatness
During a March 30 press conference, Jim Bowden compared 23-year-old Sean Casey to Jeff Bagwell, Tony Gwynn, Chipper Jones, Fred McGriff and Robin Ventura. Bowden also predicted that Cincinnati fans would look back at the Casey-for-Dave Burba trade as the best deal made by the Reds since they acquired foe Morgan, Cesar Geronimo, Denis Menke, Jack Billingham and Ed Armbrister from Houston for Lee May, Tommy Helms and Jimmy Stewart in '71. He also likened the swap to the infamous Boston-Houston trade in '90, when the Astros got Bagwell for aging reliever Larry Andersen.
"This kid immediately is going to be the second-best hitter we have [after] Barry Larkin," Bowden said. "We acquired an All-Star and a superstar with some batting titles mixed in. I've never seen a kid swing a bat like him. This is one trade I don't mind staking my reputation on."
While it is true that Casey never hit lower than .329 in the minors, Bowden may have been carried away by the results of his three previous deals with Hart, all of which favored Cincinnati. On Aug. 20, 1993, Bowden acquired outfielder Thomas Howard for first baseman Randy Milligan. Howard had 3½ productive seasons with the Reds, while Milligan was traded by the Indians to the Expos after the '93 season. On Dec. 14, 1994, Bowden got infielder Mark Lewis in a trade for utilityman Tim Costo. Lewis batted .339 for the Reds in '95, while Costo never played for the Indians. Then last July 31, Bowden picked up prospects Jim Crowell, Danny Graves, Damian Jackson and Scott Winchester in a deal for veteran lefthander John Smiley and infielder Jeff Branson. The trade instantly stocked a depleted Reds farm system; Smiley broke his left arm warming up for his seventh Indians start and might never pitch again.
Alas, Bowden's good fortune took a sudden turn last Thursday when Casey was hit in the right eye by a thrown ball during batting practice at Cinergy Field. Casey collapsed on the turf in a pool of blood, with a fractured orbital bone. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list and is expected to be out four to six weeks.
In two of his three at bats with the Reds, mighty Casey struck out.
The Forgotten Blake St. Bomber