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SWINGING INTO SPRING
Peter Gammons
February 22, 1988
What to watch for as major league camps open
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February 22, 1988

Swinging Into Spring

What to watch for as major league camps open

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10. MANAGERS ON THE SPOT. Davey Johnson, who has the best winning percentage in the 1980s, has already said this season will be his last with the Mets. The question is: Will he last the season? So wide is the rift between him and the front office that Tidewater manager Mike Cubbage, Johnson's heir apparent, will be scrutinized in Florida. Dick Williams is a lame duck facing similar circumstances in Seattle. The Red Sox' ownership has made it clear that John McNamara had better get off to a good start. And the Braves' Chuck Tanner, whose teams have finished last in three of the past four years, is already hearing that either Blue Jays coach Cito Gaston or Braves minor league coordinator Bobby Dews could replace him.

11. STARS ON THE SPOT. By the end of last season, fans in Baltimore and Boston had had enough of big contract sluggers Eddie Murray and Jim Rice, respectively. Will Murray live up to his pledge that he'll again be a hustling team leader? Is Rice whistling in the dark when he says that a post-knee operation rehab program has made him fitter than he has been in years? According to a Baseball America study, the only cleanup hitter in the majors who was less productive than Murray and Rice in 1987 was the Pirates' Sid Bream.

12. NOT A FULL DECK. The Cards need several affirmative answers if they expect to come close to replacing Jack Clark. Can Bob Horner get himself into shape to play 130 games? Will Tony Pena show his old power this spring and prove that last year's .214 average was the result of an early-season broken right thumb? Is rightfielder Jim Lindeman's power going to emerge now that his back no longer bothers him?

13. REDS RESCUER. With a change of scenery and the revival of his changeup, which he shelved last year in K.C., will Danny Jackson be the stopper Cincinnati needs if it hopes to unseat San Francisco in the National League West? And keep an eye on another Reds lefthander, rookie Norm Charlton, who came back from shoulder problems to have a big winter in Venezuela.

14. TOO MANY INDIANS? Will Cleveland find quality in quantity? The Indians invited 25 pitchers to spring training—none of whom won eight major league games last season.

15. BABY BIRDS. Can the Orioles finally begin to rebuild their staff with the highly touted young arms of Jose Mesa, Jose Bautista and Oswald Peraza?

16. MISSING SOX. Last year the White Sox had only three pitchers—Richard Dotson, Floyd Bannister and Jose Deleon—who reached double figures in wins and/or worked more than 200 innings. So, of course, Chicago traded all three. Can it build a whole new starting staff in Sarasota? Watch Dave LaPoint, who pitched more innings for Louisville than for Chicago last season; McDowell, who pitched more innings for Stanford than in the pros; and Melido Perez, younger brother of Montreal's Pascual.

17. EXTRA SOX. How will Boston's McNamara fit Rice, Dwight Evans, Mike Greenwell, Ellis Burks, Sam Horn, Todd Benzinger and rookie Brady Anderson into five positions and not create ego cross fire? And how will McNamara handle all the questions about his new reliever, Lee Smith, who like most power pitchers is a notoriously poor spring training performer?

18. THE A'S HAVE IT. Oakland has lots of new blood in pitchers Bob Welch and Matt Young and in hitters Dave Parker, Don Baylor and Ron Hassey. But the Athletics have two vital questions to answer: Can Stan Javier bat well enough to give them the defense they need in center, and can Eric Plunk be their closer?

While we await answers, we already know one thing for sure. Baseball won't be the same without Reggie Jackson.

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