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Jeff Pearlman
August 21, 2000
Will to WinHot-hitting Oriole-turned-Cardinal Will Clark has helped keep St. Louis flying while Mark McGwire has been out
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August 21, 2000

Baseball

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So it came as something of a surprise that when Ash fired pitching coach Rick Langford on July 23, he turned to Stewart to set straight a staff that at that point was 12th in the American League, with a 5.47 ERA. Ash's chief complaint was the lagging development of Toronto's three top young pitchers—righthanders Chris Carpenter, 25, Kelvim Escobar, 24, and Roy Halladay, 23, who had combined for an 18-24 record with a 6.75 ERA. "I wouldn't say I wanted this job," says Stewart, who expects to return to full-time front office duties after the season. "This is an opportunity to try and help our kids get better. I can pass along some of my experience as a pitcher and my experience as a coach."

It will not be easy. Manager Jim Fregosi was upset when Langford got fired. "I don't think it was the right decision," said Fregosi. "It makes for a difficult transition. Did Rick Langford do a bad job with David Wells [who was 15-3 with a 3.87 ERA when Langford got the hook]?"

Both Ash and Stewart felt that Langford wasn't getting through to his young pitchers. That isn't the case with Stewart, a man known as much for his intensity as for his four straight 20-win seasons with the A's from 1987-90. Since Stewart has taken over, Carpenter has been banished to the bullpen and Halladay has been demoted to Triple A Syracuse, both for the second time this season. Next in line may be Escobar, who through Sunday had lost his last three starts, allowing 16 earned runs in 19? innings. "I've taken on a responsibility, and this pitching staff has my name on it," says Stewart.

Nevertheless, Toronto has continued to struggle (it had an 8-12 record since Stewart put on a uniform), which has Stewart miffed. "I don't like losing," he says. "I don't like being related to losing, and I take this real personal."

L.A. Story
Shawn Green's Dodger Blues

When Shawn Green, who grew up in Southern California, was traded from Toronto to Los Angeles after last season, his homecoming figured to be triumphant. Green, who hit .309 with 42 home runs and 123 RBIs last year, grew up a Dodgers fan. He also was unflappable, a quality that would help him handle the pressures of his new six-year, $84 million contract—the largest in baseball in annual average salary for a position player when he signed it last November. Everything would be perfect.

Or so it seemed. Although Green insists he has no regrets over the move to L.A., his maiden season with the Dodgers has been anything but memorable. After starting hot (.309 in April, .367 in May), he has endured one of the worst runs in his six full seasons in the majors. Through Sunday he had batted just .224 since the All-Star break and .229 for the months of June, July and August. As the cleanup threat who was supposed to protect No. 3 hitter Gary Sheffield, Green had struck out 88 times, second-most on the team, while Sheffield, who was being pitched around by pitchers who no longer feared Green, had walked a team-high 85 times. Six games out of first place in the National League West at the All-Star break, the Dodgers were just 4$ games behind the division-leading Giants at week's end, but they were slipping out of the wild-card race (nine games behind the Mets). "It's tough to change, being in a new city and a new environment," said Green, who was hitting .275 with 22 home runs and 81 RBIs. "I'm jumping, trying to hit home runs. I got in some bad habits, and it's been hard to get out of them."

Unlike last year, when his smooth swing was a constant from start to finish, Green has been inconsistent—sometimes fluid, other times choppy and impatient. In part the difficulty stems from the change in home ballparks. Toronto's SkyDome is kind to hitters like Green, a lefthanded batter whose power alley is in right center. "In Dodger Stadium you have to hit it a little better than good to get it to go," says Sheffield. "I know the park has cost him a couple of home runs."

Green, however, is making no excuses. He regularly watches tapes of his at bats, but video is only helpful up to a point. "I've put in a lot of extra work," he says, "but I haven't been able to get my swing to where it needs to be. I'm still looking for answers."

To aid the search, Green has consulted with Sheffield. "When you come to the National League from the American League, everything is different," says Sheffield, who played the first four seasons of his career with the Brewers in the American League. "Your numbers aren't going to be as good. Eventually Shawn will get it going."

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