Houston team doctor Bill Bryan says the ball appears "a little fuzzy" to Thon because of some small holes in his left retina that can't be repaired surgically.
"The brain is amazing," Bryan says. "It can let the other eye compensate. But we all know how small the difference can be between being a mediocre hitter and a very good one. If his performance is mediocre the first part of the season, I wouldn't be disturbed, but by July I think we should know." And what does he guess? "I have to admit I have some reservations that he'll be as good as he was."
The first time Bob Horner, the 27-year-old Atlanta slugger, stepped into the batting cage this spring, he watched three straight pitches, all hittable, sail by. "I was scared to death," says Horner, who is trying to come back from an intricate operation on his right wrist. "I had butterflies from my head to my feet. I was talking myself into letting the ball go."
In August 1983 Horner broke the navicular bone in his right wrist and missed the rest of the season. He re-broke the same bone last May and again missed the rest of the season. When the doctors removed Horner's cast late last October, they told him he needed still another operation, one that would sideline him for all of '85.
Horner balked. His agent, Bucky Woy of Dallas, had heard about a local orthopedic surgeon, Peter Carter, who was using a new technique developed in Australia. Horner visited Carter, who told him he wouldn't know if the operation was feasible until he started cutting and that there was only an 80% chance of success. That was good enough for Horner, who underwent surgery a week before Christmas. Debris was removed from the broken navicular and replaced by a piece of bone from his pelvis and secured by a titanium screw.
"No way I'm gonna miss another season," Horner said. "I'm gonna take any chance I can."
That gamble may pay off. Horner has yet to play an exhibition game, and he still needs to strengthen the muscles in his right arm and hand, but the wrist is in working order again, even if some stiffness and swelling remain.
"There's no question in my mind I'll be there Opening Day," he says. "I never asked, 'Why me?' because I figured I'm young enough, given the right circumstances, to bounce back."
George Brett never concerned himself with much more than his next base hit, his next conquest and his next cheeseburger. One look told you that. But now, all of a sudden, Brett is lean and hard and, at age 31, in the best shape of his life.
This New & Improved Model weighs 190 pounds, 20 pounds less than in '84. The new Brett hopes he'll be more durable and less injury prone than the old Brett. Last year Brett hit a mere .284 and limped through September with a torn hamstring. He became a starter with an asterisk: If the Royals were ahead late in the game, out came Brett and in went a better fielding third baseman.