- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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Former Twin Gary Ward has gotten off to a terrible start for his new team, the Rangers, and some people think it's the result of his being beaned last year. Ward, who had 47 homers and 179 RBIs the past two seasons, had his nose broken last Aug. 30 by a Dan Petry pitch. After going 4 for 4 in his first game back, he was only 17 for 84 with no homers and seven RBIs the rest of the way. So far this season he is hitting .182 with one homer and three RBIs. "He looks like he's bailing out to me," says one manager. And a catcher says he called for more breaking balls than usual from righthanders against Ward because "He seemed to be freezing on them."...If Ward does rediscover his stroke, he can take advantage of an Arlington Stadium that no longer penalizes home-run hitters. A mammoth new scoreboard that stretches 1,100 feet from foul pole to foul pole has eliminated the stiff winds that used to blow in the hitters' faces. Through the first 10 games this season, 19 balls went out. Last year, only 78 homers were hit there, the fewest in the league.
After Rick Honeycutt was bombed in his last five starts in 1983, the Dodgers were wondering about the trade they made last August that sent righthander Dave Stewart to Texas in exchange for Honeycutt, who was signed to a five-year, $3.5 million contract. But this spring Honeycutt insisted all his problems were due to tendinitis in his left shoulder that he didn't tell the Dodgers about until late last season. Seems he was right about that. Honeycutt went to the Dodgers team doctor, Frank Jobe, when the ache persisted in the off-season and was given an anti-inflammatory drug. When he was hurting last year, he couldn't get his arm high enough to get the proper movement on his sinker, his best pitch. Now he's pain-free, and he's also 4-0 with a league-leading 1.38 ERA, while Stewart is 0-6 with a 7.42 ERA.... Fernando Valenzuela may have shaken a slump that began last June. He seems to have corrected a problem with his release point, and he had impressive complete game wins in his last two starts.
Jim Eisenreich's latest comeback attempt has faltered. Eisenreich, the talented young Twins outfielder with the nervous disorder, went on the disabled list last week. He will undergo outpatient treatment at a local hospital in order to determine the dosage of medication he requires. Eisenreich had to stop playing in 1982, his rookie season, after 99 at bats. Last year he had to quit after only seven. This year he lasted 27.... Even though Tampa businessmen bought out the Twins' minority stockholder last week—H. Gabriel Murphy had owned 42.14% of the team since 1950—it seems likely that the team will be staying put. Calvin Griffith is close to selling the majority interest he holds in partnership with his sister, Thelma Haynes, to a group of Minneapolis businessmen.
This is how bad Atlanta's Dale Murphy was going before he exploded with a pair of two-run homers against Houston last Saturday. Four days earlier, the Reds had pitched around Rafael Ramirez to load the bases for Murphy, who grounded into a double play.... The Astros have no idea when All-Star shortstop Dickie Thon will return. He was beaned by the Mets' Mike Torrez the first Saturday of the season and continues to suffer from double vision. "There's still swelling in the back of his left eyeball," says G.M. Al Rosen, "and he can't play until the swelling goes down. There's no medication for it, no exercises; there's no way of knowing when it'll be O.K."...The Giants have been scratching for runs all season, and in the middle of a 3-0 shutout by the Padres last week, Al Oliver, who has a .304 lifetime average, decided to bunt Manny Trillo over from second with nobody out. He popped up, much to the displeasure of Frank Robinson. "Even when they think on their own," the manager said, "they think wrong."
The Padres' Tony Gwynn, who leads the majors in hitting (.434), is one of baseball's best-kept secrets. "He's as good a young contact hitter as I've seen since I've been in pro ball," says teammate Steve Garvey, "and he's going to eventually learn how to hit with power. Then, he'll get 15 to 20 homers and probably go from .290 to .330 in average."
Gwynn, who'll be 24 next week, missed almost half of last season because of a broken wrist suffered while he was playing winter ball. He batted .302 in 304 at bats, .333 after July 26.
To run or not to run, that is the question. White Sox manager Tony LaRussa, annoyed when the Indians' Brett Butler stole second last week with his team leading by seven runs, had Salome Barojas brush back Tony Bernazard. And the next day, while exchanging lineup cards, he told Cleveland manager Pat Corrales, "I didn't appreciate your embarrassing my club."
Or as Carlton Fisk said, "You don't run on a team you're burying. That's been baseball etiquette for 125 years."
But the Indians have little power (their five homers are last in the league) and lots of speed (their 35 steals lead the league) and Corrales has his rabbits running. His reply to LaRussa? "When your guys stop hitting home runs, my guys will stop stealing bases."