April 04, 1991|By KENT BAKER


* RECORD LAST YEAR: 75-86, sixth, 27 1/2 GB

* PITCHING: Two additions could mean a recovery from a failed 1990 spending spree. Mike Boddicker brings savvy, and new pitching coach Pat Dobson will try to straighten out closer Mark Davis (2-7, 5.11 ERA, 6 saves). Bret Saberhagen (5-9, 3.27) is due for a banner year, and Kevin Appier and Tom Gordon are young and proven. Storm Davis (7-10, 4.74) needs to begin to justify his contract. Jeff Montgomery blossomed as the finisher when Mark Davis faltered.

* OFFENSE: The release of injured Bo Jackson will hurt, but the Royals had a better record without him than with him last year. And CF Brian McRae, Hal's son, has had an excellent spring as Willie Wilson's replacement. Jim Eisenreich and Gary Thurman probably will platoon in Jackson's former spot in left field, and Danny Tartabull returns in right. Kirk Gibson is likely to DH. C Mike Macfarlane flourished when Bob Boone went down, and 1B George Brett won another batting title at age 37.

* DEFENSE: Macfarlane has developed into an above-average defender, but the Royals look average around the rest of the infield. McRae should help the outer defense with his speed and instincts, and Thurman is outstanding with the glove. Tartabull is prone to mistakes.

* OUTLOOK: First. The Royals have trimmed age (Wilson, Boone, 2B Frank White) and are trying to rebound from the franchise's worst finish. If the pitching holds up, they can make the jump.


* RECORD LAST YEAR: 103-59, first

* PITCHING: Led the league with a 3.18 ERA and an opposing batting average of .238. Bob Welch won the Cy Young Award and Dave Stewart had his fourth straight 20-win season. Eric Show replaces the traded Scott Sanderson. Mike Moore must rebound from a subpar season, and Curt Young is No. 5. The bullpen is top-notch, with Dennis Eckersley (4-2, 0.61, 48 saves) in the forefront (four walks for the season, 96 percent save efficiency).

* OFFENSE: OF Rickey Henderson's unhappiness over his contract could be a problem. 3B Carney Lansford is out until August after an off-season snowmobile accident. Vance Law and Ernest Riles will replace him. RF Jose Canseco is the biggest offensive force in baseball when healthy, and CF Dave Henderson has recovered from knee surgery. Add 1B Mark McGwire's raw power, C Terry Steinbach, DH Harold Baines and IF Walt Weiss and Mike Gallego, and you have the same impressive array.

* DEFENSE: Steinbach is average, and the A's will miss Lansford's big plays in an infield that committed only 51 errors. Weiss holds the group together, and Gallego is agile. OF Dave Henderson is solid, and MVP Rickey Henderson can run down almost anything, but Canseco has had problems in right. That's one reason the A's got OF Willie Wilson.

* OUTLOOK: Second. The losses of Lansford and Honeycutt could be damaging, but picking against a fourth straight AL pennant is risky.


* RECORD LAST YEAR: 94-68, second, 9 GB

* PITCHING: Second-best in the AL to Oakland. Manager Jeff Torborg uses his resources wisely. New acquisition Charlie Hough is on the DL, but and Alex Fernandez, 21, should be around for a full season. Jack McDowell may be the stopper, Melido Perez is unpredictable, and Greg Hibbard fools people with his delivery and pitch selection. The true strength of this staff is the relief, with Bobby Thigpen (major-league record 57 saves).

* OFFENSE: C Carlton Fisk (18 HR, 65 RBI) keeps rolling along at 43. 3B Robin Ventura and 1B Frank Thomas can be expected to improve, and SS Ozzie Guillen and 2B Scott Fletcher are stable. OF Tim Raines, acquired from the Expos, will accelerate a prominent running game, but OF Cory Snyder must provide sock. The big question is whether the gamble to sign Bo Jackson will pay off, though the answer probably won't come until 1992.

* DEFENSE: It is solid up the middle, with Fisk still able to throw, Guillen a Gold Glove winner, Fletcher an ideal double-play partner, and Lance Johnson superb at getting flies. Ventura and Thomas need improvement in the infield.

* OUTLOOK: Third. This is a finely tuned team that needs production from its full roster.


* RECORD LAST YEAR: 77-85, fifth, 26 GB

* PITCHING: The starters may be the cream of the league, and the three secured from Montreal in the Mark Langston trade -- Randy Johnson and Brian Holman and reliever Gene Harris -- are beginning to pay big dividends. Overall, the club was third in pitching with a franchise-record 3.69 ERA. If Scott Bankhead bounces back from shoulder surgery, the staff will be even more dominating. Erik Hanson was 18-9 and Johnson pitched a no-hitter among 14 wins.

* OFFENSE: CF Ken Griffey Jr. is an established hitter at age 21. His father, Ken Sr., batted .377 in 77 Mariners at-bats, but hurt his back in an off-season traffic accident. RF Jay Buhner and DH Alvin Davis provide most of the power. 2B Harold Reynolds is an excellent contact hitter at the top, and 3B Edgar Martinez can handle the bat.

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