That sound you'll hear is impact of rookies in NL

On Baseball

March 17, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

There are years when the American League is teeming with highly touted rookies, youngsters who undoubtedly will be All-Stars during their respective careers. This is not one of those years. But there are a whole lot of National League rookies who could make an impact, and at least play important roles for their respective teams.

For example:

Atlanta's Jason Schmidt replaces Kent Mercker as the No. 5 starter in the Braves' rotation. Schmidt led the Triple-A International League in ERA last year, at 2.25, and he has looked impressive this spring.

Paul Wilson, the former No. 1 pick overall in the amateur draft, will break into the New York Mets' rotation this year. He has grown a beard that makes him look like a veteran, and he pitches like one, as well. He led all minor-league pitchers last year with 194 strikeouts in 186 2/3 innings.

Brooks Kieschnick should get a chance to become a regular in the Chicago Cubs outfield this year. He hit .295 with 23 homers and 73 RBIs in Triple-A last year.

Cubs right-hander Terry Adams is expected to be used as a middle reliever, and if he develops, perhaps as a closer by season's end.

St. Louis right-hander Alan Benes joins brother Andy in the Cardinals rotation. He led the Arizona Fall League in victories (six) and ERA (1.78).

Todd Hollandsworth likely will be the Los Angeles Dodgers' left fielder. He's coming off an injury-hampered year in Triple-A.

Jason Kendall, son of former major-league catcher Fred Kendall, likely will be the Pittsburgh Pirates' everyday catcher.

Livan Hernandez, a Cuban defector who has a chance to make the Marlins' rotation. Through Friday's games, he had reached only one three-ball count all spring.

Among the AL rookies to watch, there are Jimmy Haynes, the Orioles' No. 5 starter; Derek Jeter, the New York Yankees' shortstop, who looks terrific this year; and Red Sox right-hander Jeff Suppan, who pitched briefly in Boston in '95.

Antone Williamson eventually may get a shot to play third base for Milwaukee, although his defensive shortcomings may force the Brewers to move him to first.

The money angle

The Montreal Expos are always looking to cut costs, but

money had little to do with their trade with the Orioles this week. Sherman Obando will make $165,000 this year, Tony Tarasco $230,000. Tarasco will be eligible for salary arbitration after this season.

The Detroit Tigers picked up speedy Orioles outfielder Kimera Bartee on waivers last week based on the recommendation of minor-league coordinator Steve Boros. The former Orioles third base coach saw Bartee for more than a month during spring training in '95.

An NL scout indicated Wednesday that the Orioles have talked to a number of teams about left-hander Arthur Rhodes.

The Oakland Athletics are bidding for Padres outfielder Melvin Nieves, but look for San Diego to conclude a multi-player deal involving Nieves with Detroit, a swap that could include Tigers right-hander Sean Bergman.

The strangest injury of the spring: While he was running, Dodgers left-hander John Cummings was bitten in the leg by a stray dog.

Trouble in Cincinnati

The regular season is two weeks away, and new Cincinnati manager Ray Knight already has boiled over. Last week, he ripped outfielder Reggie Sanders for not playing through an injury, outfielder Eric Anthony for being less than enthusiastic about replacing Sanders in the lineup and pitchers Johnny Ruffin and Hector Carrasco for what he thought was minimal effort on the mound.

"Ruffin threw seven pukey warm-up pitches and threw the same way in the game," Knight said. "He looked lazy. Carrasco was asked to pitch in the 11th inning and acted as if he didn't want to play."

Separated at birth: Basketball's Bill Walton and baseball's Mark McGwire, two tremendous talents whose careers have been marred by foot injuries. McGwire is considering retirement after tearing a muscle in the right heel last week.

The Brewers figure to be lousy this year, but somehow they don't have a regular job for Kevin Seitzer, an AL All-Star last year. Instead, Seitzer will come off the bench to spell third baseman Jeff Cirillo, first baseman Dave Nilsson and designated hitter John Jaha. Seitzer batted .311 last year.

Ordonez for the defense

Rarely does a phenom live up to advance billing, but Mets shortstop Rey Ordonez truly does look like baseball's next great defensive whiz, following in the line of St. Louis' Ozzie Smith and the Cleveland Indians' Omar Vizquel. Ordonez may hit .200 this year, but his balletic defense is so extraordinary that the Mets will keep him anyway.

The Cubs are hoping outfielder Luis Gonzalez can play third well enough to fill in there until injured Dave Magadan returns to the lineup, and there is a chance: Gonzalez played third base in the minors. Cubs manager Jim Riggleman would've liked to have seen more of ex-Orioles Leo Gomez and Bret Barberie, but both have been injured most of the spring.

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