? Don Aase, a 21-year-old Red Sox righthander who pitched two no-hitters in the Florida Instructional League this winter. In his first exhibition appearance, he induced five-time American League batting champ Rod Carew to hit into a triple play. Aase may start the season at Pawtucket, but Red Sox Manager Darrell Johnson expects him to be in Boston's rotation by June.
? Bob McClure, who should provide Kansas City with what it needs most: dependable short relief work. Lefthander McClure struck out a batter an inning for the Royals and had an 0.00 ERA in a late-season tryout. That left Manager Whitey Herzog thinking that McClure might be this year's Rawley Eastwick or Will McEnaney—or both.
? Butch Wynegar, a 20-year-old Minnesota catcher who could turn out to be the 1976 spring pheenom. A switch-hitter who drew 142 bases on balls and had 112 RBIs last year at Class A Reno, Wynegar started the Twins' first three exhibitions and had four hits in 11 at bats. "He's not bad for a kid who's not even on our roster yet," Manager Gene Mauch says.
?Jim Gideon, a 6'4" righthander who signed with the Rangers last June after leading the University of Texas to the NCAA title with a 19-0 record. Gideon pitched shutouts in his only two appearances with Class A Sarasota, then moved up to Triple A Spokane where he won six of his 11 starts.
None of these rookies is being relied on as heavily as Cruz. Yet despite his impressive credentials, the Cardinals have shied away from making outlandish claims about his abilities. "We did that with First Baseman Keith Hernandez last spring," says St. Louis Public Relations Director Jerry Lovelace. "I was a real flack for Hernandez. I gave him the big treatment. Keith liked it, too, but when things started off badly for him, he was pretty much lost." Hernandez eventually was sent back to Tulsa to rejoin his longtime roommate Cruz; now they are together as starters in St. Louis.
"What happened to me won't happen to Hector," Hernandez says. "I wasn't mature enough to handle it. Hector has been mature since the first day I met him four years ago."
Harry Walker, the Cardinals' director of player development, says that Cruz is "the nearest thing to a Joe Medwick-type hitter I've seen. He's very unorthodox at bat. He gets his body going in different directions—and his swing is not very smooth—but he has very good hand reaction. You wouldn't teach a kid to swing like Hector, but then you wouldn't take a talent like Hector and make him change his swing."
Told what Walker had said about the similarities between his batting style and that of the late Medwick, a .324 career hitter, Cruz scratched his head and said, "Joe who? I don't know this Medwick. I hit like nobody. I hit like me. They tell me that I swing at too many pitches, like Manny Sanguillen of the Pirates. But you tell me: How do you get hits without swinging the bat? If they think I swung at too many pitches in the minors, wait until they see me in St. Louis. My brothers tell me that it's easier to be a good hitter in the majors, because the pitchers are always around the plate."
Cruz, a native of Arroyo, Puerto Rico and the youngest of 13 children, has spent most of this spring working at third base under the guidance of Boyer, who still manages the Cardinal farm club at Tulsa, Schoendienst and Coach Preston Gomez. Each morning he takes at least 100 ground balls from Gomez before joining the other Cardinal regulars for a standard pre-exhibition game workout. After the game he and Gomez return to the practice diamond for another session of 100 grounders.
Boyer suggested Cruz' switch from the outfield to third after watching him fool around in the Tulsa infield in 1974. "I could see that he had great natural reactions," Boyer says. "He also had the one thing third basemen must have—soft hands." Remembering the successful shift of Mike Shannon from right field to third in the 1960s, the Cardinals readily approved Boyer's suggestion.