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The Salina Journal Sunday, April 7, 1985 Page 12 Baseball spotlight on individual milestones By JOHN NELSON AP Sports Writer ; The 1985 major league baseball season begins Monday with the spotlight on Cincinnati, traditional site of the National League opener for the past century. The spotlight surely will return as Pete Rose nears a record that has stood for more than half that time. Rose, player-manager of the Reds, is poised to break the all-time record of 4,191 hits by Ty Cobb, who Baseball 1985 ended his career in 1928. With 107 hits last year, Rose now has 4,097, needing 95 to breaK the record. Rose, who turns 44 on April 14, has a dual role, however, and he says he aspires first to the same goal as his 25 other managerial counterparts — to win a pennant. . "As far as I'm concerned, the record will fall," he says. "It's just a :matter of at-bats. If I hit, I play. I've, always been able to put the [team ahead of the individual." 1 The Reds, opening the National League season at home for the 99th 'time, play the Montreal Expos. :Four games — Cleveland at Detroit, New York at Boston, Texas at Baltimore and Toronto at Kansas City — !open the American League season .Monday. By April 19, all 26 clubs !will have opened at home. ; Cpbb's record is one of several milestones that could fall during the , season. Tom Seaver is within 12 vic- i lories of the 300 career mark; Rod Carew needs 71 hits to reach 3,000, :and Nolan Ryan and Steve Carlton ! continue their duel for the all-time strikeout lead. Ryan has 3,874 stri- keouts, Carlton 3,872, and both pitchers could pass the 4,000 mark this year. Duels of a less-individual nature are developing in baseball's four divisions, especially in the American League East. The Detroit Tigers won 35 of their first 40 games last season to run away with the division, then captured the World Series in five games over the San Diego Padres, winners from NL West. Considered the strongest division in baseball, the AL East will be tough to defend. According to different accounts, as many as five teams — Detroit, Toronto, Baltimore, Boston and New York — could compete for the title. In fact, recent precedent indicates the Tigers will fail in their defense, along with the Padres and the other two division winners, Kansas City in the AL West and Chicago in the NL East. In the past three years, no division winner has repeated. Off the field and in the conference rooms, another battle looms. Baseball's four-year Basic Agreement with the players' union, which was negotiated out of the 1981 strike, expired on Dec. 31, and an owners' contention that the game faces "severe economic problems" has slowed talks. "It's a little frustrating," says Don Fehr, acting executive director of the Major League Players Association, "but there's not much we can do but keep at it. The only other thing we could do is set a strike deadline, and the players are not ready to do that yet.'' The players are asking for changes in free agency and the contribution to their benefit plan, while owners would like a new look in sal- BASEBALL RECORDS Howser relying on trials of '84 season to toughen Royals By DOUG TUCKER AP Sports Writer ; KANSAS CITY, Mo. - After all ;they went through last year, the youthful Kansas City Royals are not so youthful anymore, says manager Dick Howser. And as a consequence, the defending cham- Ipions of the oft- 'maligned Ameri;can League West coasted through a ;relatively uneventful spring training. Unlike last year, Howser pitched camp with a strong idea of who would comprise his starting rotation. And he has seen nothing to change his ; mind. I Unlike last spring, all-stars Willie ! Wilson and George Brett should be ready to go when the first ball is thrown out. And unlike last spring, the Royals are once again looked upon as a model organization in major league ; baseball. Most experts pick them to repeat as champions of the AL West, a division they dominated the second half of the previous decade before falling upon what turned out 1 to be brief hard times. "People talk about how young we -are, and we do have a lot of guys ! without much more than a year or " two of experience," Howser said from his office in Fort Myers, Fla. '."But they're young veterans now. They went through a pennant race in the second half of last year and played well. Our record in the second half of last season compared .'with anybody's. I feel good about "'our situation this year. A pennant /ace in the second half of the season • will make a veteran of you in a hur- '•'•ry." I'****-. The Royals won the West with 84 victories, then got chopped down in three straight playoff games by the Detroit Tigers. They have made only one key acquisition, but he could be a difference-maker. Veteran Jim Sundberg, one of the game's most respected defensive catchers, will be behind the plate. Sundberg was acquired from Milwaukee in a deal that wound up sending last year's starting catcher, Don Slaught, to the Texas Rangers. The Royals are hoping for nothing more than a respectable .265 batting average from Sundberg. His real value should be holding runners at first base and providing some savvy and leadership for a five-man pitching rotation which includes four players with less than four years experience. "When we found out he was available, we had to go after him," said Howser. "He is one of the premier defensive catchers in our league. He could be an awful big help to us." Bud Black, a third-year left- hander, will be the Royals' opening day pitcher against Toronto. The rotation will be filled out by veteran Charlie Leibrandt and second-year men Bret Saberhagen, 20, and Mark Gubicza, 22. If a fifth starter is needed, Howser will use Danny Jackson, who has seen major league duty in parts of the past two years. Last year Black emerged as the No. 1 starter with a 17-12 record and a 3.12 earned run average to go with a team-leading 140 strikeouts. The hard-throwing Gubicza and the finesse-minded Saberhagen were last year's spring finds. Gubicza wound up with a 10-14 mark while Saberhagen was 10-11. Both have shown marvelous promise. "I don't think we have a pitcher Season Pitching Stev* Cartton- Pnll»d«lphU Phim** NoUn Ryan-Houston Astros: Are 10 a contrnjog strikeout duel to too the 4.000 mark Rvan has 3.874 and Carlton has 3.872 Cire»r Pitching Tom S«av«r- WhH» Sox Phil N*kro- New York YankMs: Each are trying tor career records ol 300 games won Seaver needs 12 games and Nbekro needs 16 games Season Bfttlng Pate Rose-Cincinnati R«d* Has 4.097 hits going ' into the 1985 season. «- . he is looking to break Ty Cobb's al-time mark of 4.191 Pete Rose ateo leads <n : Game app*aranc»s:3371 At bats: 13.411 Single* HH: 3O82 ary arbitration. Other new looks are more apparent in some of the teams and their players. Reliever Bruce Sutler left St. Louis as a free agent to go to Atlanta; Montreal traded catcher Gary Carter to the New York Mets; Oakland sent outfielder Rickey Henderson to the New York Yankees; San Diego traded with the Chicago White Sox for pitcher LaMarr Hoyt; Toronto got relievers Bill Caudill from Oakland and Gary Lavelle from San Francisco; the Giants sent outfielder Jack Clark to St. Louis, and Kansas City took catcher Jim Sundberg from Milwaukee. Even the organization-oriented Orioles signed three free agents — Fred Lynn, Lee Lacy and Don Aase. In the previous nine years of the re-entry draft, Baltimore had signed only five free agents, the most prestigious being Steve Stone — a nobody when he came to the Orioles in 1978 from the White Sox, a Cy Young winner in 1980. "There comes a time when you have to veer off course until you can get back to your original program," Baltimore manager Joe Altobelli says. "These three free agents give us time to groom three more players on the Triple A level and three more on the Double A level." Montreal, St. Louis and Pittsburgh in the National League, and Oakland, Texas and Milwaukee in the American League are among one-time contenders who have embarked upon major rebuilding efforts. "When there is an apparent problem, the only way to solve it is by making deals — by getting some new faces," Expos general manager Murray Cook says. "When you're a contender, you don't want to do anything real dramatic. When you finish fifth, and it doesn't look like you have the personnel, you have to try to do something dramatic to pull out of it." Many clubs found answers to poor seasons in the manager's office. Ten clubs have new managers to start the season. Three new managers — Rose, Jackie Moore at Oakland and Chuck Cottier at Seattle — were named during last season. Two managers — Gene Mauch at California and George Bamberger at Milwaukee — returned after previous terms with their clubs. John Felske at Philadelphia, Eddie Haas at Atlanta and Jim Daveport at San Francisco are rookie managers, while John McNamara at Boston and Buck Rodgers at Montreal have managed other teams. Another office job also has changed as baseball begins its first full season under Commissioner Peter Ueberroth, the man who made $215 million for the Los Angeles Olympics as president of its organizing committee. Now, he'll try to make some money for major league baseball. In a major public relations move last month, the commissioner reinstated Hall of Famers Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle, who had been banned from baseball by Ueberroth's predecessor, Bowie Kuhn, for their involvement with Atlantic City gambling casinos. Mays and Mantle were not the only ones who were beginning the road back in baseball. Perhaps the most dramatic comeback bid will be made by Houston shortstop Dickie Thon, who played in only five games last year before he was struck in the head by a pitch on April 8. He missed the rest of the season and, although he still has some vision impairment, Thon is supposed to start for the Astros. Bob Horner, who has broken his right wrist twice in the past two years, also appears ready to start the season for Atlanta after being told by doctors he'd probably miss all of 1985. He hasn't played since last May 30 and only last week played in his first exhibition game. The Brewers probably have been most severely hit by injuries. They have four players trying to come back from major surgery, including Cy Young winners Pete Vuckovich and Rollie Fingers. Vuckovich, with a torn rotator cuff, has pitched only three games since his 1982 Cy Young season. Fingers, who won the Cy Young in 1981, missed all of 1983 and was sidelined July 23 last year with a herniated disc. Also trying to return are Paul Molitor, who missed all but 13 games last year with an elbow problem, and Robin Yount, who underwent shoulder surgery after the season. Still, it's a time of optimism for most teams. After all, until Monday, none will have lost a game. And their refrains, no matter the league or division, have a similar sound. The Yankees' Henderson, on the AL East: "Detroit ran away with it last year. That happens once in a blue moon ... this year, it'll be a dog fight." Kansas City Manager Dick Howser, on the AL West: "There's not a dominant club in the West. People have a tendency to run us down because of the East, but when we were playing well last year, we were beating teams in the East." Montreal Manager Rodgers, on the NL East: "I don't think anyone will run away with it. There are too many good, improved teams in this division." And Atlanta's Dale Murphy, on the NL West: "We felt we were a contending team before, and now we've improved. But San Diego was pretty tough last year, too, and they've improved." Bud Black will be on the mound when the Royals open the 1985 season Monday at Royals Stadium against Toronto that will be dominant, but we can run four or five people out there who are better than the major league average," Howser said. "And of course, we've still got Quiz in the bullpen." Submarining Dan Quisenberry has shown no signs of relinquishing the form which has made him the American League's premier relief pitcher the last five years. With 44 saves last season and 175 since 1980, Quisenberry gives Howser one of the game's most consistent weapons. The Royals will again go at the opposition with something of a nonviolent attack, relying on speed and timely hitting rather than power. Their only true power hitter remains first baseman Steve Balboni. Big Steve, obtained in an off-season trade with the New York Yankees last year, responded with 77 runs batted in and a team-high 28 home runs despite a painful rib injury the final month. "Steve Balboni proved he belongs in the big leagues," said Howser. "I'd like to see better numbers, but he had less than 450 at-bats last year. If we can get him around 550 this time, it will take care of itself. He played the last month of the season with a torn muscle in the rib cage and he was all strapped up. Besides, in our park we'd rather have speed." Speed galore will be available in the outfield. All-star center fielder Willie Wilson, who sat out the first six weeks of the 1984 season with a drug-related suspension, is one of the swiftest men in the game. Once he returned to the lineup, Wilson responded with another quality year, hitting .301 and energizing the offense with his speed. In left field will again be Darryl Motley. Howser plans to continue platooning Pat Sheridan and Lynn Jones in right field. "That's not definite," said Howser. "But we had so much success doing it last year, we'll probably stick with that." Brett, the Royals' perennial all- star at third base, is hoping to shake the injury bug which bedeviled him last season. He missed the first 33 games with a knee injury and was sidelined temporarily again late in the season. Onix Con- cepcion is set at shortstop. Frank White, a six-time winner of the Gold Glove, returns at second base. Howser also plans to continue pla- tooning veteran Hal McRae and George Orta at designated hitter. "I'm satisfied with our DH situation," he said. "McRae has had a very good spring training. We're looking at some age there, but I feel good about them." "We're going to have some speed and we're going to have some power," Howser added. "But the key is having our guys, one through nine, hit .260 and above. We can't afford to have a guy hit .210 and another guy hit .220 because we aren't a team with a lot of power. We need for George Brett and Willie Wilson to play 150 games." Herzog says Cardinals could be better than 1982 Series winners -ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) - Whitey Herzog has been around long enough to know the realities of life as a big-league manager. f .•,-'-'It's just like anybody else," he says. "When you Win you've got a job, and when you don't win they get another guy." Three years ago, Her- ,zog led St. Louis to the yVorld Series championship. This year, many are nicking the Cardinals to finish last in the 'National League East, and the rumors say iHerzog's job is on the line. They stem in part from the fact that the 'roster at the disposal of the fiery manager now lists only nine survivors from 1982, when the Cards last reigned. They also involve the departure in January of Joe McDonald as St. Louis' general manager. Among the players missing from that championship squad is ace reliever Bruce Sutler, gone to Atlanta as a free agent when the Cardinals' new front office went against Herzog's wishes and failed to match the offer from Braves owner Ted Turner. Herzog says there's no significance to the reversal, other than the fact that the Cardinals lost a key player. "Every manager has the same amount of power that I have. I don't worry about it," said the man given full power when tabbed as manager in 1980 by owner August A. Busch Jr. "I'm never uneasy. I have said that I would manage the Cardinals as long as Mr. Busch wants me to." Still, when measured against the backdrop of losing Sutter to the Atlanta Braves, this year does represent Herzog's stiffest challenge. In 1984, even when bolstered by Suiter's league-record 45 saves, St. Louis finished a distant third in NL East standings at 84-78. This year, there are increasing doubts about the Cards, who hit just .252 as a team last year. Herzog acknowledges the legitimacy of the doubts, yet a look at recent history within the division lends him hope. Only once since 1978 has an NL East winner repeated. A year ago, the Chicago Cubs and New York Mets finished 1-2 after picked to wind up 5-6. Notwithstanding the absence of Sutter, Herzog says, the Cards this season could be better than they were three years ago. "My starting pitching's a lot better than it was in '82, my (everyday) lineup's probably better than it was in '82, and my defense is just as good as it was in '82," he says. "Basically, we don't know if we can out-bullpen people until we really get into the season." Neil Allen, without a defined role while Sutter was with St. Louis, and Ricky Horton will be used in short relief. Terry Pendleton and Andy Van Slyke are youngsters occupying spots at third base and first base. Some of Herzog's most adamant critics are those who refuse to forgive him for trading away AlUStar first baseman Keith Hernandez to the Mets in mid-1983. It precipitated a Cards plunge to fourth place in the NL East. Last year, starting with the arrival of Pendleton in late July to fill Hernandez' shoes as No. 3 hitter, hope began to resurface for St. Louis. During spring training, while watching the Cards struggle once again to score runs, Herzog maintained a philosophical outlook. "Basically if you don't own the club or die on the job, when you're a manager you're going to get fired anyway," he said. "If things broke right for us, we can finish first. If things go bad, we can finish last, just like anybody else."