Angels could use power from Canseco, not pains



March 25, 2001|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla - The Anaheim Angels were hoping to catch lightning in a bottle with the low-cost signing of slugger Jose Canseco. Now, they're just hoping to get a good look at him before the end of spring training.

Canseco, who signed a one-year contract for the major-league minimum salary (plus nearly $5 million in incentives), has been out for most of the past two weeks with a sore back and stiff hamstring. If he doesn't show somebody something soon, his injury-marred career could well be over.

"I would have hoped to have seen more of him by now," Angels general manager Bill Stoneman said. "We're hopeful we're going to see him a lot more."

There should be no shortage of incentive for Canseco to return. He knows his career is on notice and he needs 54 home runs to reach 500.

He may be a Hall of Famer already, but it wouldn't hurt to jack up one more big season to remove all doubt.

"If I had stayed healthy, I would have passed that [500 homers] a long time ago," Canseco said. "Now, because I've lost maybe five years to injuries, it has become important to me."

How much time has Canseco actually lost? Consider that he has played in more than 113 games in only one season since 1993. Maybe it doesn't work out to five years' worth, but he almost certainly would be a candidate for 600 home runs by now if he had been able to stay in the lineup - especially with the inflated home run numbers that have been put up the past four or five years.

It seems like a long time ago now, but there was a time when Mark McGwire was the other member of the Bash Brothers. Canseco was the one who seemed destined to challenge all the home run records, until his body no longer could handle the everyday pounding of a 162-game season.

For the price, the Angels would probably settle for 80 to 100 games. They need all the help they can get, with slugger Mo Vaughn out for the year and second baseman Adam Kennedy set to start the season on the disabled list.

Rickey's return

Likely Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson also could turn out to be a bargain if he gets a chance to play regularly in San Diego.

Henderson signed with the Padres last week for a base salary of $300,000 and reported to camp in such good physical condition that he is scheduled to make his exhibition debut tomorrow.

He obviously knows what's at stake. If he can get 300 at-bats, he should be able to accumulate the 86 hits he needs to reach 3,000. If he steps on the field at all, he's a lock to break Babe Ruth's all-time walk record (he needs three), and has an outside chance to get the 68 runs necessary to break Ty Cobb's all-time record of 2,245.

Henderson is baseball's all-time stolen-base leader, but one more good season would complete his slam-dunk Hall of Fame resume.

It's a good move for the Padres because they can use the public relations boost from those milestones and because they can't be sure that Tony Gwynn will be healthy enough to play full-time.

Back on top, sort of

Former Orioles pitcher Pete Harnisch has seen it all. He was a member of the exciting "Why Not?" Orioles of 1989. He was part of the infamous Glenn Davis trade. He emerged as a big-time pitcher, then submerged into clinical depression during the mid-1990s.

The good news is, he has re-established himself as a solid starter - enough so that his unsettled contract situation is the talk of the Cincinnati Reds' camp.

Harnisch, who can become a free agent at the end of the year, arrived in camp seeking a two-year deal worth $16 million. The Reds balked, and negotiations broke off on March 1, but Harnisch has pressed the issue on the mound, reeling off 15 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings over one stretch of exhibition appearances.

Now he seems content to allow the 2001 season to play out.

"There are three options next year," Harnisch said. "I could be here somehow, though I don't know how it would happen. Or I'm going to be a free agent and go somewhere else. Or I'm not going to play. I'm not really that concerned about it.

"If I go out and have a decent year, throw strikes and do what I can for the team, I know there'll be enough people interested in me."

Reds general manager Jim Bowden also seems willing to wait and see what the near future will bring. He can be forgiven for his reluctance to commit $8 million a year to a guy who was 8-6 last year.

"At least we already know where they stand," Bowden said. "Hopefully we'll win the division, three million fans will come into the stadium and we'll be able to afford to keep him."

Trivia challenge

There are only two pitchers in major-league history who hold the career save record for more than one team. All-time major-league save leader Lee Smith is one of them. The other is an active player. Can you name him?

How good is Martinez?

Three-time Cy Young winner Pedro Martinez is so overpowering that Reds superstar Ken Griffey asked for the ball after getting a bloop single off him during an exhibition game last weekend.

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