The Hot Sheet -- Special Pre-Season Editon

The Hot Sheet -- Special Pre-Season Editon

Post by Ron Shandle » Sat, 17 Feb 1996 04:00:00

The Hot Sheet - February 16, 1996

American League-Headline Note: The Rangers Juan Gonzalez is primed for a
big comeback. Gonzalez who had bulked up to 252 with a heavy daily workout
of weight lifting, has taken the Texas brass advice and dropped the
weights. He enters spring training at a svelte 220, greatly increased
flexibility and looking like the slugger who produced 90 HRs during the
1992-1993 period. Gonzalez's increased aerobic conditioning has also led
the Rangers into planning to use him in right field rather than left and DH
like last season... Tony LaRussa had the reputation of being a veterans
type manager. He was very impatient with younger players like Eric Fox.
LaRussa verbally tore apart Fox when he made a baserunning blunder during
the 1992 playoffs. Sandy Alderson brought in Art Howe who has more
understanding with younger players and this should help the kids this
season.  Expect Herrera, Young, Battle, Giambi, and the pitchers to play
more relaxed and perform better under Howe... Cal Eldred's progress from
Tommy John elbow surgery has slowed and the Brewers now feel he won't pitch
this year... The Red Sox have inquired (after the Cordero deal) about the
availability of Moises Alou to play RF in case Canseco can't do the job.
The Sox are waiting for the start of spring training and progress reports
on the surgically repaired shoulders... Art Howe has hinted that he would
like to have a veteran lead-off hitter rather than Battle (who has the best
OBA of the rookie OFers). He suggested that Scott Brosius could bat first
even though his career OBA is .306 (.342 in 1995)... The Oakland starting
outfield should be Brosius, Herrera and Munoz with Battle, Lydy and Young
battling for the other two spots. If Brosius is forced to play 3B due to
the failure of Jason Giambi, then all three of that group will remain in
Oakland... Kansas City manager Bob Boone says the Royals will have to be
much more creative on offense this year with all the loss of power.
Obviously that means they will run a lot more in 1996. Goodwin and Damon
will have their speed used to the fullest. Damon will bat anywhere from
first to third while Goodwin will get the nod in the second slot most of
the time. Hamelin, Vitiello and Macfarlane will provide the power. Speaking
of Hamelin, Hal McRae, who still has a radio show in Kansas City, reported
last week that Hamelin appears to be in excellent shape. It should be noted
that McRae took Hamelin under his wing as manager and the hammer went in
the tank when McRae left... Chris Haney's back rehab is on schedule and the
KC brass doesn't see any delays at the start of spring training... It's
another story for Jim Pittsley who is progressing at a normal rate. Look
for him to spend April in extended spring training (and the warm weather)
and start the season at AAA before being ready for a recall sometime in
July... Aaron Sele was convinced by his agent and the Red Sox that he
needed to undergo the most intense conditioning program of his life to
revive his chances in Boston. Sele worked out in Florida with Nomar
Garciaparra, a top Red Sox prospect, almost every day. Both players greatly
reduced their body fat and concentrated on conditioning. To make sure Sele
has less stress on his shoulder this season he will throw his slider more
and curve less. The Red Sox say he is primed for a big comeback... Wil
Cordero has been working out at 3rd base and his throws to first appear to
be normal and without pain. If his shoulder stays sound, he could see time
at 2B, 3B and the OF... Sandy Almoar knows he has to be ready to play an
entire season for the Indians or he could be gone. He hasn't posted over
300 at bats since his rookie campaign. This off-season he concentrated on
building up his hamstrings and quads to take the pressure off his knees and
he enters camp in the best shape of his career.  Mike Hargrove says he
plans to limit his spring training catching to keep him fresh... Dennis
Martinez showed up in Florida to begin working out and inside reports say
he has some pain in both his pitching elbow and his newly repaired knee. At
41, the injuries are becoming more frequent... Lou Piniella is e***d
about having Louis Polonia on the Mariners roster because of the way he can
hit on turf. Even though his 1995 turf OBA was .256, his 5-year average is
373. Look for his SBs to move over 20 again... Will Clark reported this
week that he can straighten out his elbow for the first time in years. He
expects to regain the stroke that made him one of the most dangerous
hitters in the NL... Come draft day, remember that Bobby Witt has the
highest ERA (4.52) among active starters with more than 1,000 IP... Red Sox
SS John Valentin will concentrate on his base stealing during spring
training. He spent the off season working to build up his legs and now
feels that he could steal 30 bases this year... Jose Canseco has told
several Boston beat writers that he is in the best shape of his life,
but we've heard that from Jose before and he still gets hurt.

National League-Headline Note: John Smoltz, who finished the season strong,
also has participated in off-season conditioning, including long toss. He
says his arm strength is already at where he was at the end of the season
and Braves manager Cox says "He's ready to go nine innings now." Look for a
monster season... Just a reminder about pitcher Al Leiter, who signed with
the Marlins this off season -- He walked 108 in 183 innings and his ERA on
grass was 4.28 versus the 3.15 on turf... Mark Wohlers doesn't appear to be
resting on his laurels. He comes into camp 17 pounds less than last year
and is running three miles a day. The increased aerobic exercise should
help his stamina... Going into this weekend and the opening of camp for
pitchers, Cox says that Terrell Wade is even with Jason Schmidt for the 5th
rotation spot. Wade has taken off 12 pounds this winter and exhibited
improved control late in the season and during his solid pitching in the
Arizona Fall League... The Expos continue to have talks with Pascuel Perez
about returning to Montreal and vie for a rotation spot. Have the Expos
fallen this far?... Terry Mulholland is leaning toward signing with the
Reds as camps get ready to open this weekend... Pads GM Towers feels the
addition of Wally Joyner's defense at first base will have a very positive
effect on the defense of all the infielders. This also will have a ripple
effect on the pitching staff... Mel Nieves is being shopped by the Padres
to the Chicago White Sox, Kansas City, Baltimore and Seattle. Tower asked
for Arthur Rhodes from the Os but was immediately turned down... Phillies
pitcher Mike Grace had his dead arm examined by Frank Jobe after the
instructional league in October. Rest, then special exercises were
prescribed and the strength has returned to its pre-August 1995 levels. Jim
Fregosi says he will be brought along slowly even though he appears to be
healthy at this point... Curt Schilling has expressed disappointment that
Daulton won't be behind the plate when he pitches. Schilling said he
pitched his best when Dutch was catching. Speaking of Schilling, he
continues to make impressive progress from shoulder surgery. He is "weeks
ahead of schedule" according to the Philadelphia medical staff. Still, he
wont be ready for opening day and a target date of mid-May is more
realistic... Mike Munoz is also a head of schedule from Tommy John surgery
on his pitching elbow, but hasn't done any throwing and isnt scheduled to
for another week or so. He isn't expected to be ready until late June at
the earliest... Phils GM Lee Thomas stressed the fact that Benito
Santiago's catcher ERA was 3.85 for the Reds last year while his backup
Taubensee was 4.32. This is the first time in the past 3 seasons that his
CERA was lower than his backup. Thomas says that he can really see the
maturity in Santiago... Greg Jeffries hasn't endeared himself to the
Philadelphia management -- he's refused to consider a move from 1B to LF so
that Daulton could play first and take the load off his knees... The Astros
are convinced that the defense of Sean Berry will be on par with that of
Caminiti when he played in Houston. Berry's range factor was sixth in the
majors at 3B and his fielding percentage of .948 was better than Caminiti's
936... Newly-acquired Giant pitcher Rich DeLucia injured his pitching
shoulder (rotator cuff) throwing the first time after the trade from St.
Louis. His surgery was supposedly, a very minor scope of his shoulder and
he should be ready to throw in 6 weeks after the operation. The Giants
expect him on the DL at least until mid May... At the news conference this
week announcing the new Pirate owners, Jim Leyland sounded very upbeat. He
says he will bat Al martin second to get him the most at bats possible. "I
want to play Al Martin more," Leyland said. "He's capable of having a
monster year, and if he can reach that plateau for us, he can be a big key
for us." Leyland added that Neagle, Wagner and John Ericks were the only
three locked up starting spots. Lieber, Parras, Loaiza and Steve Cooke will
fight for the last two slots. Cooke says his arm is 100% after missing all
of last year and he's ready to go... Jim Riggleman admitted to the Chicago
media that Duane Ward was signed to a minor league contract to add another
experienced pitcher to the closer's race. He was candid that Ward was just
a shadow of his former self and was hoping to use his experience to better
use... Chris Sabo realizes that this is his last shot at the show.
Reportedly he has worked 5 hours a day with Dr. Aaron Mattes, the doctor
who helped rehab Joe Montana and Carl Lewis. Sabo was clocked at 6.6 in the
60 yard dash, compared to the Cecil Fielder-like 7.3 in 1993. This regained
speed has improved his flexibility greatly. It remains to be seen if he
still has the baseball skills... Ryne Sandberg has spend the entire winter
in Arizona enduring a rigorous 4-hour daily workout. He has worked extra
*** his stamina. This is the first winter Sandberg has worked out and
Cubs trainer John Fierro stated that "He's far ahead of everybody right
now. I've got a feeling he's not going to be a slow starter this year."  
Like Sabo, much of his baseball skills have erroded... Bret Saberhagen says
he could be ready by the end of May. Rockies officials say that is really a
long-shot and surgery must still be an option... Royce Clayton rejects any
suggestions that he be moved to second base to accommodate Ozzie Smith. He
said he is too young to be moving to a new position. Talk about being a
team player. This point could be moot if Smith's shoulder doesn't regain
its strength... Aaron Holbert, the Cards SS of the future will be moved to
2B and start the season at AAA Louisville... St. Louis has dropped a
single-A team and now has only 6 minor league teams... Danny Jackson's
ankle injury is more serious than has been reported. His surgery corrected
the problem but the Cards won't get him back until mid to late July...
Barry Bonds' personal trainer Raymond Farris reports that he has lost 12
pounds this offseason. Bonds says his goal this year is to match Jose
Canseco's 40-40 season. He feels that his increased conditioning
will make the difference... Zane Smith and his agent are talking to the
Pirates to get one more go-around with the Bucs...

Hot Sheet Analysis-The loss of Greg Gagne, Gary Gaetti and Wally Joyner in
the Kansas City Royals infield will reverberate all the way through the
Royals pitching staff. Jose Offerman at SS, and the assorted collection who
will play 1B, 2B and 3B won't come close to matching their defense. Kevin
Appier's pitching style leans toward groundball. Mark Gubicza will be
affected by this lack of infield defense even more. This team also will
struggle to put runs up on the board, adding to the pressure on the entire
staff. Is it possible to put a number on it?  No. There isn't a formula.
I'd say a safe bet is roughly a half of a run more on the ERAs and a slight
up-tick on the ratios. Finally, if Appier or Gubicza is the ace of your
staff, don't count on a lot of wins. This team will struggle to get to the
75 mark in 1996.

This was a sample 1996 pre-season edition of Rick Wilton's HOT SHEET, to be
published this year by Shandler Enterprises Co. The Hot Sheet debuts on
March 8 for a 26-week run, transmitted overnight each Thursday for Friday
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