WP: Witt 4
SPARKYS TINKERING WITH THE TIGERS
From the outset of spring training, the one American League team that seemed the most stable was Detroit. The Tigers had the best starting pitching in the division, right? Their everyday lineup was set, right? The biggest concern was keeping key players like
Lance Parrish, Alan Trammell
Then near the end of spring training,
began tinkering. He called up players from Nashville and considered releasing veterans like
to make room for
. The season wasn't two weeks old when Sparky declared his established lineup—which had
and Trammell one-two in the order—"useless" and inserted
in those spots; Collins has never batted over .266 for a team that played on grass, while Coles was .214 lifetime entering this season. Anderson used 11 different lineups in the first 11 games, including one with Spilman, who was a free agent until mid-March, batting cleanup. Then Sparky said he might bench Whitaker against most lefthanders because the second baseman has hit .224 against lefties and .301 against righthanders since the beginning of the '84 season. Sparky has his regular power hitters bunting, he keeps making home-run champion
guess where and when he'll be playing and he puts Collins everywhere in the outfield.
Anderson's biggest concern in the early going, however, is his starting pitching. In their first nine games, before
shut down the Indians, the vaunted starters allowed 44 earned runs in 49⅔ innings. Even in those games, though, the Tigers were 5-4, which says something about how good the rest of the team is. When proven winners like
return to form. Sparky can stop overmanaging.
As teams tried to work into the rhythm and routine of the season, the first weeks seemed to add two contenders to the American League East troika of New York, Toronto and Detroit. The Orioles' pitching, which came through with a franchise-high 4.38 ERA last year, seems to be coming back.
made a conscious effort to get his starters more work (around 40 innings) than any group of starters in spring training so that they would get off quickly, and his plan has worked.
, who is so durable that he has failed to get decisions in only nine of 96 career starts, has regained his control to such an extent that umpire
said last week, "His strikes almost aren't strikes, and his balls almost aren't balls."
is throwing in the 89-to-90-mph range, the hardest since he won the Cy Young Award in 1979 and began suffering a series of frustrating injuries.
The most dominant starting staff in the division may belong to Boston—if the right shoulder of
holds up after he passes 100 innings. In their first 10 outings, Clemens,
Bruce Hurst, Oil Can Boyd, Al Nipper
allowed only 53 hits in 77 innings, just once failing to get to the seventh inning with three or fewer runs allowed. The bullpen is another matter; the heralded eight-player trade with the Mets has produced one pitcher on the disabled list and three reserves at Pawtucket.
THE PHILLIES COUNT ON ANIMAL MAGNETISM
They call themselves the Animals, they wear A's on their caps and uniform socks and they even have their own fight song. They're a group of Philadelphia Phillies that punctuated spring training with outrageous behavior, and they're helping to soften the traditionally starched atmosphere of that clubhouse. The Animals were born on a long bus ride from Vero Beach to Clearwater, with
the unlikely ringleader. Later, at a team party at a Clearwater hotel to watch the final game of the NCAA basketball tournament, someone suddenly yelled, "Food fight!" and the group proceeded to throw everything in sight. Then came a rollicking flight from Tampa to Cincinnati to open the season. More bedlam. "As long as there isn't damage or problems, I'm all for it," says manager
. On most road trips, the Phillies are met at the airport by two buses. According to Felske, there is now a "nerd" bus and an "animal" bus. Though membership in the Animals varies, the regulars include pitchers Carlton,
Steve Bedrosian, Larry Andersen, Kevin Gross
and third baseman
seemed a certain Hall of Fame shortstop; at 30, he's in centerfield. Shoulder surgery took four years off the career of
. Trammell and
live on the fault line of serious shoulder damage. "Shortstops have the most wear of anyone but pitchers, and the strain may be worse," says shoulder expert Dr. Arthur Pappas of the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. "They often don't warm up properly and then have to make high-pressure throws from different angles and places where they can't get set. It's not surprising that so many have the problems they do."...
admitted at the end of last season that he was disappointed at stealing "only" 70 bases. The Expos told him he needed to do two things to get into the
Rickey Henderson-Vince Coleman
stratosphere: run early in the season and run early in counts....
may acquire his former Toronto pitcher
and try to rehab his fastball. Cox also would like to pick up old friend
, who has asked the Blue Jays to trade him. But they can't for now, not with
off to such bad starts (23 runs in 19⅔ innings over their combined first five outings). There has been speculation that Stieb's start and his 85-mph readings on radar guns indicate a recurrence of the elbow stiffness that plagued him last September, but more likely he's still building up his arm after spending so much of spring training working on an off-speed curveball that will allow him to throw fewer hard sliders, which put a lot of pressure on his elbow....