O's expected Finley's numbers - from G. Davis

ON BASEBALL

May 07, 2000|By Peter Schmuck | By Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

The ghost of Glenn Davis still haunts the Orioles, who have had nearly a decade to kick themselves for trading away three of their best young players for the injury-prone first baseman.

This year, the most painful reminder is Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Steve Finley, who entered Friday tied with Barry Bonds and Geoff Jenkins for the National League home run lead.

Finley, who was traded to the Houston Astros along with pitchers Pete Harnisch and Curt Schilling, has hit 11 home runs to help drive a Diamondbacks offense that should have been handicapped by the loss of power-hitting third baseman Matt Williams. He's not your classic power hitter, but he has evolved from a very good speed/average hitter to a top-flight run producer.

"I'm not trying to hit home runs," he said recently. "I'm just trying to put a good swing on the ball."

He has been doing that consistently over the past year. From May 3, 1999, to May 3 of this year, Finley batted .281 with 40 homers, 116 RBIs, 112 runs, 31 doubles and 10 triples. Not bad for a guy who represented a third of the package that went for a player (Davis) who had a total of 24home runs and 85RBIs in threeyears for the Orioles.

"He's playing about as well as anybody you want to see right now, in all phases of the game," manager Buck Showalter said.

Of course, Finley was the player the Orioles could most afford to include in that deal. They long since had come to regret the departure of Schilling, who has emerged as one of the game's premier starting pitchers, and Harnisch, who also had some big seasons after the deal.

Shouted down

The Chicago White Sox were unstoppable in April, setting a major-league record with 181 runs in the first month of the season, but seem to have lost a little of their edge since Major League Baseball vice president Frank Robinson suspended seven players for their role in the April 22 brawl with the Detroit Tigers.

The White Sox entered Friday with 18 runs in the six games since the suspensions were announced, at least in part because Carlos Lee and Magglio Ordonez have been out of the lineup serving their suspensions. But hitting instructor Von Joshua said he feels the club lost something in the aftermath of the fight.

"Since the fight, I've watched a change," Joshua said. "That took a little sting out of them. Some players aren't as aggressive. I think we went into the Detroit series [last weekend] and several guys changed the way they were playing. They were tentative. We have to get back to being aggressive."

Wood's encore

Finally, the beleaguered Chicago Cubs have something to get excited about. Pitching phenom Kerry Wood is scheduled to make his second start today since coming back from reconstructive elbow surgery, and his 2000 debut on Tuesday night left the distinct impression that he'll make it all the way back.

He didn't have great stuff, but he still cruised to his first victory of the year.

"He's going to get better and better," catcher Joe Girardi said. "We didn't even use all his stuff tonight."

Wood probably won't be at the top of his game for months - most orthopedists contend that it takes about two years to come all the way back from radical elbow surgery - but he has so much natural ability that he already looks like a plus major-league pitcher again.

"The doctors tell you, `Next year he's going to be Secretariat,'" said manager Don Baylor.

Sox overshadowed

The first-place White Sox should be on top of the world, but they aren't even the talk of their own town.

The Sox entered Friday leading the American League Central by 3 1/2 games, but they're still playing second fiddle to the fifth-place Cubs when it comes to home attendance.

The two clubs played dueling home games Tuesday night, with the Cubs drawing a sellout crowd of 38,121 to Wrigley Field and the Sox drawing 10,397. Of course, that was the night Wood was making his long-awaited 2000 debut, but the Cubs also outdrew the Sox by a wide margin Wednesday. Sox reliever Bill Simas didn't take it personally. Everyone knows that Chicago is a Cubs town.

"They have something going that we don't have - atmosphere and location," Simas told the Chicago Tribune. "Plus, Kerry Wood is a fun guy to watch pitch. If we weren't playing, I'd be over there watching him pitch."

It's the air

Despite the introduction of a couple of cozy new stadiums this year, Coors Field is still without peer when it comes to inflated offensive numbers.

The Colorado Rockies just concluded a six-game homestand in which their pitchers gave up an average of 8.83 runs and the club still won four times.

They did that by averaging 10.83 runs during a homestand in which the winning team didn't score fewer than 12 runs. Through their first 17 home games this year, the Rockies have averaged 9.53 runs and their opponents 7.92.

Outside pitch

The Atlanta Braves' pitching staff has been in a class by itself for much of the past decade, but never has the difference in quality been so pronounced as it is now.

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