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Sixth-place Tigers' rebuilding program includes summer 0)...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Sixth-place Tigers' rebuilding program includes summer 0) school

MINNEAPOLIS -- Sparky Anderson has reverted to his version summer school in an effort to jump start the Detroit Tigers' rebuilding program.

Locked into sixth place, with nowhere to go, the Tigers are looking ahead, hoping to make a late-season trade and giving some of their young prospects a crash course in the rudiments of big-league ball.

As part of the latter program, Anderson has been summoning his players to the park early every day. The Tigers manager has been taking 15-20 minutes before batting practice for what he calls "lessons on baseball." He alternates his sessions, meeting with hitters one day and pitchers the next, and says he'll do it the rest of the year.

It's a tactic Anderson first employed in 1979, when he took over as manager of the Tigers and was dismayed by the lack of fundamentals. "It's what I did when I came here," said Anderson, "but I hope it doesn't happen again in 13 more years.

"Five [years] I could take, but 13 more, I don't know," said Anderson, who is already on record as saying the AL East is a two-team race between the Blue Jays and Orioles. The Tigers' big need is a quick fix for their starting rotation.

In 1988, the year after they last won the division, the Tigers had five pitchers who combined to start 157 of the 162 games -- with an ERA of 3.93. Since then Anderson has used 30 different starters, and they've gone 173-242 with a 4.80 ERA.

The Tigers have used at least 11 starters in each of the past three years and have used nine this year. They feel they got a couple of college pitchers in this year's draft who could mature quickly enough to be in the big leagues soon.

The trick will be to get them there before the current nucleus (Travis Fryman, Cecil Fielder, Mickey Tettleton) disintegrates.

Clemens may take a break

After failing to strike out a single batter for only the fourth time in his career, the Boston Red Sox's Roger Clemens said he might have to miss his last two starts before the All-Star break.

Clemens was hammered by the Chicago White Sox on Thursday night and, perhaps because of frustration, drew a warning from umpire Drew Coble after throwing a pitch over the head of Lance Johnson. Clemens is suffering from an inflamed right foot and has failed in five straight attempts for his 10th win.

There is talk of a cortisone shot to alleviate the problem, but that would necessitate missing a start. With the All-Star break looming, Clemens could get the equivalent of two weeks off by skipping scheduled starts Tuesday and Sunday.

Flying with Kite

Larry Lucchino doesn't profess to be a golfer of note, but the Orioles president had an interesting experience during his first trip to the links this year. He played a partial round at Caves Valley with Tom Kite one week before the U.S. Open.

Kite, whose 10-year-old daughter is an avid gymnast, was in Baltimore with his family to watch the Olympic trials at the Baltimore Arena. Dennis Satyshur, head pro at Caves Valley, was the link between Lucchino and Kite.

Satyshur is a longtime friend of Kite's -- and hails from Western Pennsylvania, Lucchino's old stomping grounds. "We don't know each other from there," said Lucchino, "but there's a special bond among people from that area."

At Satyshur's invitation, Lucchino played "seven or eight holes" with Kite. "He's a real gentleman -- and a very intense player," Lucchino said of the new Open champion.

Kite's description of Caves Valley, as relayed through Lucchino: "A beautiful course -- hard, but fair. The rough is tough."

Lucchino said he did not keep a score, but revealed that, aided by a handicap stroke, he did win a hole -- the first one he played.

Don't walk

Since the start of the 1988 season, Dennis Eckersley has walked a total of 30 batters. In 3 1/2 years, only three hitters have drawn more than one walk from the Oakland Athletics relief ace.

The Minnesota Twins' Kent Hrbek has gotten the most respect, with three. The Milwaukee Brewers' Robin Yount and the Orioles' Randy Milligan each have coaxed two walks from the Eck.

Mills fan club

Count Milwaukee third baseman Kevin Seitzer among those who think the Orioles have a real find in right-hander Alan Mills.

"He has the best stuff I've seen all year," Seitzer said after seeing Mills for the second time earlier in the week. "He throws harder than anybody I've faced.

"They [the Orioles] got a gold mine in that guy," said Seitzer. "I don't give pitchers a lot of credit, but he [Mills] was a steal."

Rockin' in Fenway

For years, fans in Fenway Park have been serenaded by organ music. And John Kiley's patriotic melodies on Memorial Day and Independence Day could stir the feelings of even the most calloused.

But Kiley is retired, and the Red Sox apparently are contemplating joining the rock-and-roll set. For the first time, taped (non-organ) music was played between innings in Fenway last week. The reaction was one of surprise -- and acceptance.

"It livens up the place," said Wade Boggs. "I think the fans will like it, too. We've got to get out of the '40's."

Steve "Psycho" Lyons, who just had been signed by the Red Sox to help solve an acute outfield shortage, apparently believed the bTC change was some kind of tribute. "I thought they did it because of me," he said.

"I never thought they'd go to it [rock and roll]," said Kiley.

In tune in June

The Tigers never cease to amaze. During June, their Nos. 3, 4 and 5 hitters each set career highs for RBI in one month. Fryman had 25, Fielder 32 and Tettleton 24.

The 81 RBI by the trio matched the team total for the Cleveland Indians -- and was more than the Los Angeles Dodgers registered during June.

When Boston's Bob Zupcic hit a grand slam to beat the Tigers last week (the first reliever Mike Henneman says he's ever given up at any level of competition), it was the 34th home run of the year for the Red Sox. That's as many as the Tigers hit -- in June.

Big Padres machine

The 1975 Cincinnati Reds are the last major-league team to have the first four hitters in the lineup bat over .300 for the season (Pete Rose, Ken Griffey, Joe Morgan and George Foster).

The current quartet hitting at the top of the lineup for the San Diego Padres (Tony Fernandez, Tony Gwynn, Gary Sheffield and Fred McGriff) has a chance to duplicate the feat.

Questions of the Week

* Don't the Orioles wish they had another shot at Cory Snyder, the National League Player of the Month for June, who was available for nothing twice within the past year?

* How many decisions is it that commissioner Fay Vincent has to make this week?

* Is some contender willing to gamble on Frank Tanana (3-0, 2.48 ERA in his past four starts)? If so, how much will it cost to buy him out of his 10-and-five veto power over any trade?

* As the only other interested teams two winters ago, will the Orioles and Tigers still be interested if the Red Sox (as rumored) release left-hander Matt Young once he comes off the disabled list?

* Will the Cubs sign Andre Dawson, who will be 38 on Friday, before the Orioles sign Cal Ripken, who will be 32 on Aug. 24?

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