With best pitching staff money could buy, Toronto needs a loan

BASEBALL

August 09, 1992|By JIM HENNEMAN

There was a time, and it wasn't too long ago, when the rest of baseball feared the Toronto Blue Jays would run out of money before they ran out of pitching.

Now there is some evidence suggesting the American LeaguEast leaders are running out of both.

The Blue Jays' payroll has soared well beyond the budget, to whopping $44 million, as general manager Pat Gillick put every dollar he could find into the 1992 basket. Gillick gambled that Jack Morris would be the ace who could provide the World Series trump card.

But the veteran right-hander's 14-4 record is deceptive -- as hi4.57 ERA attests. Morris had an 8-0 lead against Detroit on Thursday night and barely struggled through five innings, throwing 104 pitches.

That came after the Blue Jays appeared to have made a foolisdecision in trying to rush Juan Guzman into the rotation. He's on the disabled list, and there's no telling when he'll return. The Blue Jays knew what they were doing early in the year, when they carefully nursed Guzman, rarely letting him go beyond six innings.

Now the Jays are desperate for a starting pitcher who caprovide them with quality innings, and there's nobody on the horizon.

Against Boston on Monday night, Guzman was able to thronothing but fastballs, a situation that some say led to his confrontation on the mound with manager Cito Gaston. Reportedly Gaston signaled from the bench for Guzman to throw a changeup to Wade Boggs, but the pitcher shook off the sign.

When Gaston went to the mound to find out what was going onGuzman informed him that he couldn't throw a changeup "because it hurt too much." That didn't satisfy Gaston, who said, in effect, "Don't tell me now [rather than before the game] that it hurts."

There was another incident that also reportedly spiced thdebate between Gaston and Guzman. After Roger Clemens had thrown a pitch over the head of Toronto catcher Pat Borders, Guzman supposedly was told to retaliate against Boggs, but refused, supposedly adding to Gaston's ire.

The manager declined to talk about his two spats with Guzma(the first came after Billy Hatcher had stolen home), but it's obvious the Blue Jays are living in a troubled house these days. This is the year they're supposed to bring the World Series to Canada for the first time, but securing a spot in the American League playoffs has suddenly became the top priority. The Blue Jays still have to play Minnesota, Texas and Chicago six times and Milwaukee seven -- in addition to seven games against the Orioles.

Meanwhile, Dave Stieb has, somewhat reluctantly and perhaponly temporarily, been inserted into Guzman's spot in the rotation. If he survives last night's start in Detroit, he'll face the Orioles in the final game of a four-game series Thursday.

Stieb, who missed most of last year with back trouble, was givea cortisone shot in his right elbow last Wednesday, the first injection of his career.

Before the unrestricted trading deadline passed a week ago, thBlue Jays reportedly were trying to trade for California Angels left-hander Jim Abbott. But their surplus of young talent has dried up in recent years and their swollen payroll cannot take on any more big numbers.

Joe Carter and Jimmy Key are potential free agents at the end othe year, and both will want contracts worth $5 million per year. Morris has another year at that figure left on his deal, and younger players like Roberto Alomar and John Olerud are moving closer to ultra big bucks territory.

If the Blue Jays don't win the series against the Orioles thastarts tomorrow, there will be a lot of nervous people in Toronto. This has hardly been the joy ride everyone expected.

Tigers miss Deer

Say what you will about the all-or-nothing hacks of Rob Deer, but the Detroit Tigers are a better team with the free swinger (23 home runs, 82 strikeouts) in the lineup.

In the 67 games Deer has started, the Tigers have hit 97 homersaveraged 5.3 runs, and posted a 34-33 record. In the first 43 games without him, they have hit 31 homers, averaged 3.9 runs and compiled a 15-28 record.

New lineup is a hit

Since Hal McRae juggled the top six spots in the lineup, the tothree hitters in the Kansas City Royals lineup have prospered.

In his first six games as a leadoff hitter, Gregg Jefferies wen16-for-26, with a pair of four-hit games. Wally Joyner moved into the second slot and went 11-for-24 while hitting in six straight games.

The moves seemed to benefit the incumbent No. 3 hitter, GeorgBrett, who looks as if he'll reach the 3,000-hit plateau before the season ends. Brett went on a 29-for-87 tear (.333) to raise his average to .279. He needed 55 hits in his last 54 games to reach 3,000.

Fans even in Indianapolis

How far has Orioles mania and the interest in the new park at Camden Yards spread? At least as far as Indianapolis (where the you-know-who occasionally resemble a football team).

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