Some pitchers and managers have complained when balks were called, particularly when the base runner wasn't a threat to steal. Says American League umpiring chief Marty Spring-stead, "Balks have to be called consistently. Even if a pitcher balks when there's a guy on second who isn't a threat to run, the umpire has to call it. Why? Because the pitcher will use the same move in the ninth inning when a speedster is on base and claim that, if it was legal in the fourth, it must be legal in the ninth."
Springstead believes that the pitcher—not the runner—benefits when the pitcher comes to a discernible stop in his motion. Philadelphia Phillies righthander Kevin Gross agrees. "If the runner stops [while the pitcher's hands are still], he can't get as good a jump," says Gross. It's too early to draw conclusions, but last week's caught-stealing rate was slightly higher than last season's rate of 29%. So maybe all this balk business is really for the good of the pitchers.
Two of the cornerstones of the Pittsburgh Pirates' reconstruction project excelled in the season's first week. Bobby Bonilla, a third baseman who began 1987 as an outfielder, hit homers from both sides of the plate for the second time in 86 games. Then there's Darnell Coles, a rightfielder who opened the '87 season as a third baseman. "There's nothing he can't do," says Pirate coach Rich Donnelly. "But he's a funny kid. He apologizes for doing well. He'll say, 'I hit a lucky pitch.' I want him to think he's good, because he's a phenomenal athlete." ...When the Seattle Mariners traded for Steve Trout this winter, they thought that getting him away from the Yankees and reuniting him with pitching coach Billy Connors, whom Trout worked with when he pitched for the Chicago Cubs, would cure him of Steve Blass Disease. The mysterious ailment, named for the '71 Pirates World Series hero who in 1973 suddenly couldn't find the plate, causes uncontrollable wildness. In Trout's '88 debut, against the Oakland Athletics, he retired the first two batters but then walked five in a row, threw consecutive wild pitches and overthrew third base.
An auspicious start for George Bell of the Toronto Blue Jays—three homers against the Kansas City Royals in the opener, five hits in the Jays' next game—may have smoothed whatever hard feelings remained over his move to DH (and Lloyd Moseby's move to left-field) to make room for rookie centerfielder Sil Campusano. Against the Minnesota Twins on Friday manager Jimy Williams showed how flexible his system can be by putting Moseby back in center and Bell in left. Williams wanted to keep Campusano away from Bert Blyleven's curveball as well as spare him the burden of playing the outfield in the Metrodome before getting a look at the place. "Campusano could be the surprise Rookie of the Year," says one American League scout. "He's the only guy I've ever seen whose bat is too quick. He has to learn to slow down and not jump at the ball, but he can be a star." ...San Diego Padres manager Larry Bowa claims that proofreading his own book, Bleep!, written with Barry Bloom, made him realize what a tyrant he had become. "The whole book is confrontations I had, and me screaming at people," says Bowa. "I realize I was pretty hard on guys like [pitcher] Jimmy Jones, [centerfielder] Stan Jefferson and [second baseman] Joey Cora." As first baseman John Kruk says, "He's not as psycho as he was."
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