- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Finally, remember what Archimedes told Pythagoras, that if one hurler goes all nine, zero is left for the firemen. A bullpen is a rickety enough emotional structure as it is.
Through last week the Pale Hose did, in fact, lead the American League in saves with 35, but it took six different firemen to accumulate that total—and only one of them was in double figures. "A masterpiece," Roland Hemond, The Wily G.M., says in praise of the way La Russa has shifted his arms. But you're better off if you have the privilege of managing dull, with a set bullpen, like Kansas City's, which has 34 saves but 31 of them from one arm, the submariner's. As Duncan says, "When you lack the dominant force in the bullpen, the way we do, every time you have to change roles it creates mental strain."
Lamp, with his sinker, is the short man now, the closer, replacing Salomé Barojas, who faded at midseason. Barojas pitches year-round, Mexico and the States, and maybe he went through what Hoyt calls a "lull in your arm." It appears that Barojas is snapping back now; Hoyt also says that "an arm can get a second wind." In June, Juan Agosto, a baby-faced southpaw from Puerto Rico, was the temporary surprise answer. In spring training, Agosto wasn't even among the top 15 candidates for the staff; four years ago he played in Puerto Rico because no team in Organized Baseball would sign him after the Bosox said he wasn't good enough for A-ball. But Agosto got married this March Gust before Hickey), and he went out to Triple A and blew people away for Denver. He hadn't given up a single extra-base hit when the Sox called him up, and he debuted on June 2 with a win—one hit, no runs—going three and a third. "They'll have the whole Denver team up here tomorrow," a nervous veteran exclaimed in the clubhouse that night...and a month later, Agosto's ERA was still only 1.00.
And then, just like that, he couldn't get anybody out on either side of the Mendoza Line, and in another month his ERA was nearly five, the worst on the staff.
Meanwhile, Tidrow shaved off his beard and maintained a respectable ERA, but he suddenly started chucking gopher balls. Hickey couldn't regain his command, and after he blew a lead for Barojas against the Yankees on the last day of July, the Sox put him on the 21-day disabled list with a sore arm. Hickey is probably too unflappable, too neighborhood, to stay down, though. One time a couple of years ago, when he was struggling just to pop up from Double A, he gave up a home run in spring training...to a college team. It was Eckerd College the Sox were playing. "So, from now on," Hic Man advised The Wily G.M. afterward, "we should play Walgreen's instead of Eckerd's." A year later, Hickey came north with the Chicago varsity and won his first major league game on Easter Sunday in Yankee Stadium. His teammates stole the game ball from him, painted it like an Easter egg and gave it back to him that way.
With Hickey on the 21-day, there was a vacancy on the staff again. This time last year The Wily G.M. scraped up three major league additions, and he was reaching out again to try and touch up some clubs. It was understood that 206 and 612 were the area codes he was most familiar with. But: No go. He would have to look to the farms for the new arm.
Richard Barnes, the extra lefthanded starter in spring training, has had some major league experience, and he passed his 24th birthday in July with a 10-3 record, the most wins in the American Association. By contrast, two other pitchers the Sox sent out, Randy Martz and Steve Mura, had spent much more time in the bigs; in fact, both won in double figures last year. But both pitched poorly in Triple A. Martz started off 2-6, Mura 1-6.
Maybe this is not so surprising. Whereas Barnes was pretty sure he'd go out, and prepared himself for that fate, Martz and Mura could only curse the luck that had brought them, proven major league winners, to a staff deep with more proven major league winners. Tidrow, who knew Martz well, having been on the Cubs' staff with him, stayed in touch with Martz. He says that at first Martz was so upset by his demotion that he simply could not accept that fact and take the measures that might lead to his return. "Very understandable," Tidrow says. "Human nature."
Nevertheless, Martz was the one they finally chose. Once he had come to grips with his lot in life for '83, he turned himself around. After that 2-6 start with a touchdown ERA—six points—he went 5-1, 2.79. So, they brought him up and T-Bone stuck him in The Rotation for a few days and put Burns in the pen to give him a "change of scenery." Now, Burns is back on the starting slab. The Wily G.M. also dipped all the way down to Class A for a kid with a sneaky fastball named Al Jones when the twin bills stacked up—even had to start Tidrow once. But now Jones is back in Appleton, and the question is what to do with Martz when Hickey comes off the DL on Aug. 22. Without Hic Man the Pale Hose are a southpaw short in the bullpen, and they still lack the flamethrower who can close it out with Ks—The Kloser.
The man who would be The Kloser remains with his family down in Arlington, Texas. That is Jim Kern. His rehabilitation—for '84—has finally begun. Sometimes he goes up to Chicago to check in with the team doctors there, and other times he goes over to the Rangers' park to scout for the Sox, but it took him almost four months before he could bring himself to visit his teammates again. "It's been extremely hard for me to go to the ball park, to watch but not be able to participate," he says. "I've been surprised how hard."