In 1982 the Twins were enraptured by the play of Randy Johnson, a 23-year-old rookie DH whose April numbers were similar to those of 21-year-old Cardinals rookie third baseman Albert Pujols this year. Johnson batted .393 with five home runs for the month. (Pujols through Sunday was hitting .375 with six homers.) Johnson finished the season at .248 with 10 homers.
?Pitchers who get off to a good start usually stay good: Through the first three weeks of the season, the Braves' Greg Maddux led the National League in earned run average (0.67), and the Red Sox' Pedro Martinez (1.61) was second in the American League. Although there are always shockers—could anyone have imagined the Cubs' Jeff Fassero having saved nine games as of Sunday?—good pitchers tend to start hot and stay hot. From 1996 through 2000, baseball's top April winners were Maddux (17), Martinez (16), Tom Glavine (16), Randy Johnson (16) and Shane Reynolds (16). All, except Reynolds, have won 20 games. April's top losers? The mediocre Dave Mlicki (14), John Burkett (11) and Juan Guzman (11).
Karsay Back in the Bullpen
No Relief From Relief
In November, Indians righthander Steve Karsay visited orthopedic surgeon James Andrews in Birmingham for an MRI, X-rays and an examination of Karsay's pitching arm. Since his major league debut, with the As in 1993, Karsay, 29, has missed nearly three seasons and has had four operations on his right elbow—Tommy John surgery in '95 and three operations to remove bone spurs or chips, in '94, '96 and '99. Karsay hadn't started a game since August '99, and the examination by Andrews, made at the insistence of John Hart, then Cleveland's general manager, would determine whether Karsay, who led the Indians with 72 appearances last season, was ready to leave the bullpen. As long as he didn't throw more than 105 pitches per start, Andrews said, there would be no risk Karsay was back in the Cleveland rotation.
On March 30, a day before Karsay was scheduled to make his fifth and final spring training start, Indians manager Charlie Manuel informed him that rookies C.C. Sabathia and Tim Drew would be Cleveland's fourth and fifth starters, after Bartolo Colon, Chuck Finley and Dave Burba. "I know [ Karsay] was sold on being a starter," says Manuel, "but we couldn't replace him in the pen."
Since being traded from the A's, for whom he'd been a starter, to the Indians before the 1998 season, Karsay has been a victim of his own versatility. He made only one start in 1998, went from long man to setup man to starter and to short relief the next season, began 2000 as Cleveland's closer and ended the season as a setup man for closer Bob Wickman. "I prefer to start or close," says Karsay, a power pitcher who can hit 97 mph on a radar gun. "Guys in the middle get hung out to dry."
As a starter, though, Karsay is 9-17 with a 4.83 ERA in 40 career starts. Compare that with his record of 13-12 with a 3.49 ERA in 136 relief appearances, including 10? scoreless innings in 2001 through Sunday. Before the Indians traded for Wickman last July 28, Karsay had converted 19 of 24 save opportunities.
In spring training this year, he went 1-0 with a 6.23 ERA in four starts, though Cleveland's brass insists that Karsays performance wasn't to blame for his demotion. More relevant was the pitching of righthanded middle reliever Justin Speier, 27, who followed a productive 2000 (3.29 ERA in 47 appearances for Cleveland) with an abysmal spring (13 runs in 13? innings), leaving a Karsay-sized hole in the bullpen.
Karsay signed only a one-year, $2.7 million contract in January and looks forward to shopping himself to a team looking for a starter or a closer. "This is a great club, but it's hard to recognize where I fit in," he says. "I understand it's a business decision. At the end of the year I'm a free agent, and it'll be a business decision for me."
High Noon for Kevin Malone