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With the Chicago White Sox fading in the American League West, some of their fans undoubtedly are hoping that Bo Jackson will come to the rescue down the stretch. That's a tall order, even for someone as spectacular as Jackson, who suffered a career-threatening hip injury while playing pro football last January. But his 1991 baseball debut was promising: In a doubleheader on Sunday, Jackson went 2 for 6 with two RBIs as the designated hitter for the Sarasota White Sox in the Class A Florida State League.
Still, Sarasota's Ed Smith Stadium is a long way from Comiskey Park, and if Bo does make it back to Chicago this season, a lot of questions will need to be answered:
•Can he be an effective player? Some hitters have a hard time regaining their timing at the plate even after six weeks of spring training. Jackson might get a total of 30 at bats at Sarasota and Double A Birmingham before being recalled by Chicago. His remarkable athleticism notwithstanding, baseball doesn't come easily to Jackson. Hard work is the biggest reason that he has been as successful as he has been.
When healthy, Jackson is probably the fastest and strongest player in the sport. His intimidating speed is a big part of his game, but he's running with a slight limp and admits he's no speed demon. Indeed, though he got two infield hits on Sunday, he was timed going from home to first in 4.3 seconds, only average for a righthanded hitter. As for power, he is swinging mostly with his arms. He's still strong enough to hit 400-foot homers, but he will not have awesome power until he gets his legs and hips more involved in his swing.
•What position will he play? "DH," says White Sox general manager Ron Schueler, adding that Frank Thomas can play first base. Thomas, however, has been the team's designated hitter since the end of May because an injury to his right shoulder has limited his throwing. "It still hurts," says Thomas. "I can't deny that."
•Will Jackson be accepted by his teammates? In spring training a few players were upset that the team paid Bo $700,000 for 1991-almost as much as the top four pitchers in the starting rotation make all told—even though it knew he might not play this year. "We have a lot of young guys who were going through tough times with contract negotiations this spring," says veteran pitcher Charlie Hough. "They see Bo get a lot of money when he can't play, and they say, 'Hey, I can play, and I'm not getting anything.' You can understand that. But Bo is a good guy. He makes a lot of money, but he's earned it in a way. He has brought a lot of publicity to the club. And if work can be measured, he's earned every penny of it."
Says another White Sox source, "I haven't heard of one problem with Bo. Carlton [Fisk] wasn't happy when we signed Bo, but now they get along great."
•Will Bo be eligible for the playoffs? Postseason rosters must be set by Sept. 1. Every team must designate 25 players, not counting those on the disabled list. Jackson will be on the DL, so he'll be eligible.
•If Jackson is activated, won't a deserving player get kicked off the roster? Probably. Chicago, however, has used a number of players this year, many of whom haven't spent the entire season with the team. Picking Jackson over a fifth outfielder who didn't join the club until July shouldn't cause a stir.