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INSIDE: BASEBALL
Peter Gammons
May 08, 1989
LONELY AT THE TOP
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May 08, 1989

Inside: Baseball

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Many of the top high school prospects come from Florida, which could produce as many as seven of the first 30 picks. Righthander Kiki Jones—of Dwight Gooden's alma mater, Hillsborough High School, in Tampa—heads the list, although his stock has recently dropped because of some poor outings, his size (5'11", 175 pounds) and the fact that the 18-year-old Jones already has a daughter to worry about. Though his 72 rating by the Major League Scouting Bureau earlier in the season puts him only one point below McDonald, Jones will probably be the third high school pitcher selected in June, behind righthander Roger Salkeld of Saugus, Calif., who at 6'5" and 205 pounds has more of a pitcher's build than Jones, and righthander Jeff Juden, a 6'7", 245-pound former hockey star from Salem, Mass. "Don't worry about Kiki," says one scout of Jones's recent poor performance. "He's simply bored with waiting for the draft."

Four other Floridians should also go in the first round. One is Cincinnati catcher Terry McGriff's cousin Charles Johnson, who calls signals in Fort Pierce. Another is Kenny Felder, an outfielder from Niceville who signed on with Florida State as a quarterback but is expected to play baseball. The two other highly rated Floridians are lefthanded-hitting outfielder Greg Blosser of Sarasota and Rollins College shortstop Clay Bellinger. Righthander John Hope of Stranahan High School in Fort Lauderdale would also be a definite if he hadn't been suspended for a week and a half in March for engaging, along with his father, in a violent altercation with another teenager. Still, the scouts love Hope's aggressiveness: Earlier this year, while he was warming up between innings, Hope knocked down an opposing hitter because the batter, trying to gauge the speed of Hope's pitches, had edged to within a few feet of the batter's box.

"This may be a better year in Florida than 1982, when the high school all-star game featured nine players who have made the big leagues," says Toronto scout Tim Wilken. "This year's all-star game may have a dozen future major leaguers."

That game in '82 included Gooden, Red Sox leftfielder Mike Greenwell, Blue Jay catcher-DH Pat Borders, Rangers first baseman Rafael Palmeiro, Yankee pitcher Lance McCullers, Angel pitcher Richard Monteleone, Mariners pitcher Terry Taylor, Rangers utilityman Mike Stanley and White Sox catcher Ron Karkovice. One important player, however, didn't make that all-star team: a kid from Miami named Jose Canseco.

THE REAL DR. K

The time has come to give Ron Perranoski much of the credit for the Dodgers' recent success. "He is one of the best pitching coaches ever," says one baseball executive. "He's basic, but he's a master psychologist and has an uncanny ability to read opposing hitters. He takes great arms who haven't won and makes them winners."

Righthander Tim Leary was 20-31 with a 4.28 ERA until last year, but since the start of the '88 season, he has gone 19-13 with a 3.03 ERA. Fireballer Tim Belcher has undergone a similar transformation: Before being acquired by the Dodgers in '87 he was 34-34 with a 4.37 ERA with four minor league clubs. But last year he was 12-6, had a 1.06 ERA during the last month of the season and won three postseason games. And this season he has picked up where he left off, going 2-2 with a 2.54 ERA in his first six starts.

Now Perranoski has another miracle in the works: Mike Morgan, the erstwhile phenom who pitched his first major league game for the A's in '78, a week after graduating from high school. Since then he has bounced from organization to organization and was 34-68 with a 4.90 ERA when the Dodgers acquired him in a trade with the Orioles in March. Under Perranoski, Morgan won two of his first three starts—the first time he has been over .500 since he was 1-0 with Seattle on April 12, 1986.

NO RELIEF
San Diego reliever Mark Davis had 11 saves in his first 11 opportunities, but it took him 17⅓ innings to do it, because the Padres don't have any good setup men. By contrast, Oakland's Dennis Eckersley collected his first eight saves and a win in only 11⅓ innings.... What has helped make Rangers pitcher Nolan Ryan so effective in the America League this season is the circle changeup he learned last year in Houston. Says Blue Jay slugger Fred McGriff, "You can't tell the difference between his fastball and change coming out of his hand." During his one-hitter against the Blue Jays on April 23, Ryan's fastball was clocked at 97 mph and his change at 87 mph.... After the aforementioned one-hitter, Toronto pitcher Mike Flanagan overheard his teammates discussing Ryan's trademark grunt and quipped, "I tore a vocal cord as a kid and haven't thrown as well since."

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