The 1991 season should go down in baseball annals as the Year of the Comeback. There have been stirring team revivals-like those of the Twins and Braves, who have risen from the cellar to compete for pennants—as well as the extraordinary returns from injury of Orel Hershiser and Bo Jackson. But some less publicized comebacks, all involving pitchers, are also worthy of note.
? Mark Leiter, Tigers. He missed three minor league seasons, 1986 through '88, with a right shoulder injury. "I considered giving up in '87. I didn't want to rehab any more. I said to myself, Who am I kidding?" says Leiter. "But my wife, Allison, told me, 'Don't give up.' "
His jobs during his rehab included four months as a corrections officer at the Ocean County ( N.J.) jail in 1987. "A few times I had to step between inmates to calm them down," he says. "That was not fun." Through Sunday, Leiter, 28, was 8-4 with a 3.90 ERA.
? Steve Howe, Yankees. A six-time loser to drug and alcohol dependency, Howe, 33, is 3-1 with three saves and a 1.68 ERA while pitching in the major leagues for the first time since 1987.
?Bill Wegman, Brewers. He was 12-7 with a 3.09 ERA at week's end. He had made only 13 starts in the previous two years combined because of shoulder and elbow surgery.
?Jose Guzman, Rangers. He should be the American League comeback player of the year. He missed 1989 and '90 with a shoulder injury but has been the Rangers' most consistent pitcher this year, going 12-5 with a 2.86 ERA.
The big hurdle for Guzman, 28, was his fear of pain. "I was afraid," he says. "I wanted to cut loose, but I'd hold up because I'd be thinking, It's going to hurt. After my first start in the big leagues this year—the game I walked nine [in 3? innings in Minnesota on May 23]—I cut loose with some pitches and had no pain. I knew I was 100 percent then."
Second baseman Julio Franco might win the American League batting title, but the Rangers should consider trading him. He's a career .300 hitter but is below average on defense and doesn't set a great work example for younger players. He recently asked to hit early during batting practice because he needed to take a nap.... Through Sunday the worst earned run average among qualifiers in the American League belonged to Dave Stewart of the A's, whose ERA ballooned from 2.56 last season to 5.26 this year.