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Many of these questions will become moot if the Sox don't start playing better. At week's end they had lost 12 of their last 14 games to fall seven games behind the first-place Twins. Pitching, not hitting, has been the cause of Chicago's slide. Says one player, "We don't need Bo as much as we need another pitcher."
This is the age of specialists, but some pitchers are proving that pitching is pitching, and good pitchers can adjust to any role. Take Milwaukee's Dan Plesac and Cincinnati's Randy Myers. They were two of the game's top closers until they fell on hard times in the bullpen. Now both of them are starters.
The 29-year-old Plesac, who saved 110 games from 1987 to '90, saw his velocity drop from the mid-90's to the high 80's between last year and this spring. "I can't overpower people anymore," he says. "I've got to look at something different now. It took getting my brains beat out for over a year to come to grips with that."
Plesac, who was 3-7 with a 4.43 ERA and 24 saves last season, was moved to the rotation three weeks ago. On Aug. 21, he breezed through the Toronto lineup for four innings, allowing one hit before a lower back strain forced him from the game. "If I never save another game, I won't lose any sleep over it," he says. "Hopefully, this will be another chapter in my career."
Myers, 28, saved 81 games between 1988 and '90, but he lost his job as the Reds' closer to Rob Dibble following a horrible start. As of Sunday, Myers, who was a starter for most of his minor league career, had done a good job in six starts (3.18 ERA) for Cincinnati despite a 1-4 record. In his last start, against the Mets on Sunday, he went six innings and gave up two runs on six hits.
Then there's Baltimore's Mike Flanagan, a longtime starter who has found relief in the bullpen. A leading candidate for the American League's Comeback Player of the Year award, the 39-year-old Flanagan made 404 starts from 1975 to '90, but Toronto released him in May 1990. After rehabilitating his weakened shoulder, he won a spot in the Orioles' bullpen this year. At week's end he had a 1.88 ERA coming out of the bullpen, and he had pitched more innings in relief (81⅓) than anyone else in the league except the Blue Jays' Duane Ward (87⅓) and the Tigers' Paul Gibson (84).
"We've put him in every role possible—short man, setup man, long relief, and he's handled them all," says Baltimore manager John Oates. "That's difficult for a 22-year-old to handle, let alone a 62-year-old like him."
He's Got the Power
The Mariners spent a lot of time looking for a power hitter. Little did they know that the man they sought was right on their roster. At week's end Jay Buhner was hitting .250, with 24 homers and 64 RBIs in only 312 at bats. "All our players knew he was capable of doing this," says one Mariner, "but we don't make out the lineup card."