Toronto manager Jim Fregosi says the same thing about his Shawn, who is also showing signs of fatigue as the year goes on. In his four previous big league seasons, Green had been a slow starter; for example, in 1998 he batted .232 in April and .322 in August. Early last month Toronto coaches noticed that Green's swing, generally compact and fluid, had become a bit longer. "That happens when you get tired" says Green, who briefly returned to form by going 3 for 3 with a two-run homer in last Friday's 5-4 win over the Royals. "You change your swing a little, and as a result you don't drive the ball as well. It's frustrating, but the best thing to do is not worry too much. The second wind comes, and you get back in the groove. Sooner or later, it'll happen."
The Jays are hoping for sooner. This season, through Sunday, Toronto had gone 25-8 in games in which Green homered. When he'd had at least two hits, they were 35-15. When Green had gone hitless, however, as he had 12 times since the All-Star break, Toronto was 5-7. "Of course we need Shawn to produce," says Matthews, whose team was four games behind Boston in the wild-card race at week's end. "He's an essential guy in this lineup."
Mariners' Pitching Picks Up
Armed and Ready in Seattle
The list of pitchers drafted and discarded by the Mariners in the past decade or so reads like the league-leaders list in your morning paper. There's Mike Hampton, Matt Mantei, Shawn Estes, Dave Burba and Derek Lowe, to name a few, all accomplished starters or relievers helping contenders make playoff pushes this season. Only three teams—the Dodgers, Indians and Braves-had bred more pitchers who were on major league rosters as of June 1 than the 16 Seattle had developed, according to The Seattle Times. Unfortunately for the Mariners, only three of those 16 were still in Seattle, a fact that goes a long way toward explaining why the Mariners have finished among the bottom five in the American League in pitching each of the past three seasons and, through Sunday, had a league-worst 5.52 ERA.
The future looks brighter for Seattle, however, and not just because the Mariners have fled the ERA-inflating Kingdome for ERA-deflating Safeco Field. Beginning with the July 31, 1998, trade that sent Randy Johnson to the Astros for pitchers Freddy Garcia and John Halama and second baseman Carlos Guillen, Seattle has undergone a sea change. Instead of using minor league pitchers as trade bait for veterans, the Mariners have been stockpiling young arms for the last 13-plus months. Since the Johnson deal, Seattle has acquired six young pitchers who were either in Triple A or had only scant major league experience. "Basically, with our pitching we've patched a tire here for a long time," says manager Lou Piniella. "Now we're trying to put on a new set of wheels."
To that end, through Sunday Piniella had used 27 pitchers-two short of the major league record for a season set by the Angels in 1996. The 27-year-old Halama, a lefthander who'd had six major league starts when the Astros sent him to Seattle, and Garcia, 22, a righty who made his big league debut this season, each were mainstays in the rotation by June. They were joined in July by flame-throwing 21-year-old righthander Gil Meche, the Mariners' top draft pick in '96. "Some people might say we're rushing these guys," says Bryan Price, Seattle's minor league pitching coordinator, "but I'd rather have the opportunity to pitch in the big leagues at 22 and fall on my face than not to have it at all."
Garcia, a 6'4", 210-pound horse who complements his mid-90s fastball with an above-average curve and changeup, was 14-7 with a 4.28 ERA through Sunday and had a shot at winning more games than any American League rookie since Mark Fidrych had 19 victories in 1976. Halama, whose style mimics that of Mariners' veteran Jamie Moyer, a soft-throwing lefthander, was 11-5 with a 4.10 ERA, had walked just 48 batters in 142½ innings and earlier in the season reeled off a streak of nine straight wins. Meche, who started the season with Double A New Haven and jumped to the majors after six starts at Triple A Taco-ma, had been erratic—witness his 5-4 record—but has the Mariners convinced he'll be a top-of-the-rotation pitcher. With the three rookies, Moyer and righthander Paul Abbott, the Seattle starters, who were a combined 24 games over .500 and make a modest total of about $3.1 million, seem set for next season. Now that several more rookies are gaining experience in the bullpen and touted prospect Ryan Anderson is about a year away, Seattle's pitching wheels at last seem to be on a roll.