Then last spring Cleveland released him. Villone says he has no hard feelings toward the Tribe. "Hopefully, Ron won't try too hard," Reds pitching coach Don Gullett said before Villone started against the Indians at Jacobs Field. "When you face a team that let you go, sometimes there's tire desire to prove it was a mistake." Villone pitched well against the Indians, except for a four-run second inning. The Reds lost 11-10, but Cleveland G.M. John Hart, forever searching for a lefty starter, surely noted Villone's stats. The mistake was obvious.
Dennis Martinez's Plans
One More Time: Pan Am Games
Dennis Martinez was 43 when he retired from major league baseball after pitching for the Braves in the National League Championship Series last October; nine months later he is 45. In documentation for the Pan Am Games, scheduled to begin on July 23 in Winnipeg, Martinez, a player-coach for Nicaragua, lists his birth year as 1954 instead of 1955, the date listed for him in all big league records, hi the grand tradition of Hollywood, Martinez had been fudging his age.
Now that the righthander has come clean on his birth, the only people he will finesse are some hitters. Martinez was planning to work an inning or two in exhibition games while grooming his breaking ball for one key Pan An start. "If we get to the semifinals, against Cuba or the U.S., maybe I'll put myself in and see if I can go four or five innings," Martinez says. "This is the Olympic qualifier"—the top two teams will go to Sydney—"and if that can't motivate you, nothing can."
Martinez, the winningest Latin American pitcher in major league history, with 245 victories in 23 seasons, had planned to take a sabbatical from baseball this season. But the man revered in his country as El Presidente was pressed into service by the Nicaraguan baseball federation.
Martinez, who hopes to return to the majors as a coach or scout next season, ran the team's pre-Pan Am Games training camp and then was asked to help manage even though he has no professional managerial experience. "It's a challenge I like," he says. "We'll see how I respond."
Minor League Prospects
A Call to Young Arms
Every fifth day in the clubhouse of the Triple A Fresno Grizzlies, before righthander Jason Grilli takes the mound, his pitching coach offers a reminder. "For each guy you strike out," Joel Horlen tells him, "you pay me five bucks."
While discussing this financial arrangement before Sundays All-Star Futures Game at Fenway Park (in which a team of U.S. minor leaguers faced a team from the rest of the world), Grilli doesn't crack a smile. He is 22, a former standout at Seton Hall, and has a 96-mph fastball and one of Triple As best sinkers, hi 17 games through last Saturday, he was 7-4 with a 4.70 ERA. He is a likely September call-up to the Giants. He is, by virtue of more than just the Fenway appearance, a future star—and in 92 innings, he had 69 strikeouts. That's $345.
"Coach is stressing something all young pitchers have to learn," says Grilli, who retired both batters he faced in the U.S.'s 7-0 loss to the world's future stars. "Everyone wants to see home runs, and everyone wants to see the 15 strikeouts, but the pitcher who survives is the one who gets a lot of grounders to second."