With best pitching staff money could buy, Toronto needs a loan


There was a time, and it wasn't too long ago, when the rest of baseball feared the Toronto Blue Jays would run out of money before they ran out of pitching.

Now there is some evidence suggesting the American LeaguEast leaders are running out of both.

The Blue Jays' payroll has soared well beyond the budget, to whopping $44 million, as general manager Pat Gillick put every dollar he could find into the 1992 basket. Gillick gambled that Jack Morris would be the ace who could provide the World Series trump card.

But the veteran right-hander's 14-4 record is deceptive -- as hi4.57 ERA attests. Morris had an 8-0 lead against Detroit on Thursday night and barely struggled through five innings, throwing 104 pitches.

That came after the Blue Jays appeared to have made a foolisdecision in trying to rush Juan Guzman into the rotation. He's on the disabled list, and there's no telling when he'll return. The Blue Jays knew what they were doing early in the year, when they carefully nursed Guzman, rarely letting him go beyond six innings.

Now the Jays are desperate for a starting pitcher who caprovide them with quality innings, and there's nobody on the horizon.

Against Boston on Monday night, Guzman was able to thronothing but fastballs, a situation that some say led to his confrontation on the mound with manager Cito Gaston. Reportedly Gaston signaled from the bench for Guzman to throw a changeup to Wade Boggs, but the pitcher shook off the sign.

When Gaston went to the mound to find out what was going onGuzman informed him that he couldn't throw a changeup "because it hurt too much." That didn't satisfy Gaston, who said, in effect, "Don't tell me now [rather than before the game] that it hurts."

There was another incident that also reportedly spiced thdebate between Gaston and Guzman. After Roger Clemens had thrown a pitch over the head of Toronto catcher Pat Borders, Guzman supposedly was told to retaliate against Boggs, but refused, supposedly adding to Gaston's ire.

The manager declined to talk about his two spats with Guzma(the first came after Billy Hatcher had stolen home), but it's obvious the Blue Jays are living in a troubled house these days. This is the year they're supposed to bring the World Series to Canada for the first time, but securing a spot in the American League playoffs has suddenly became the top priority. The Blue Jays still have to play Minnesota, Texas and Chicago six times and Milwaukee seven -- in addition to seven games against the Orioles.

Meanwhile, Dave Stieb has, somewhat reluctantly and perhaponly temporarily, been inserted into Guzman's spot in the rotation. If he survives last night's start in Detroit, he'll face the Orioles in the final game of a four-game series Thursday.

Stieb, who missed most of last year with back trouble, was givea cortisone shot in his right elbow last Wednesday, the first injection of his career.

Before the unrestricted trading deadline passed a week ago, thBlue Jays reportedly were trying to trade for California Angels left-hander Jim Abbott. But their surplus of young talent has dried up in recent years and their swollen payroll cannot take on any more big numbers.

Joe Carter and Jimmy Key are potential free agents at the end othe year, and both will want contracts worth $5 million per year. Morris has another year at that figure left on his deal, and younger players like Roberto Alomar and John Olerud are moving closer to ultra big bucks territory.

If the Blue Jays don't win the series against the Orioles thastarts tomorrow, there will be a lot of nervous people in Toronto. This has hardly been the joy ride everyone expected.

Tigers miss Deer

Say what you will about the all-or-nothing hacks of Rob Deer, but the Detroit Tigers are a better team with the free swinger (23 home runs, 82 strikeouts) in the lineup.

In the 67 games Deer has started, the Tigers have hit 97 homersaveraged 5.3 runs, and posted a 34-33 record. In the first 43 games without him, they have hit 31 homers, averaged 3.9 runs and compiled a 15-28 record.

New lineup is a hit

Since Hal McRae juggled the top six spots in the lineup, the tothree hitters in the Kansas City Royals lineup have prospered.

In his first six games as a leadoff hitter, Gregg Jefferies wen16-for-26, with a pair of four-hit games. Wally Joyner moved into the second slot and went 11-for-24 while hitting in six straight games.

The moves seemed to benefit the incumbent No. 3 hitter, GeorgBrett, who looks as if he'll reach the 3,000-hit plateau before the season ends. Brett went on a 29-for-87 tear (.333) to raise his average to .279. He needed 55 hits in his last 54 games to reach 3,000.

Fans even in Indianapolis

How far has Orioles mania and the interest in the new park at Camden Yards spread? At least as far as Indianapolis (where the you-know-who occasionally resemble a football team).

Bob Leonard, coach of the Baltimore Bullets in 1963-64, called friend here last week to get tickets for a friend, Greg Smith. "He's a lifelong Orioles fan, and it's been a dream of his to see them play in Baltimore," said Leonard.

Nice guy that he is, Leonard is picking up the tab to fly Smitand a friend to Baltimore later this month.

Olympic gaffe

Controversy surrounding the Olympic Games apparently knows no bounds. Recently promoted Toronto catcher Ed Sprague (son of the former major-league pitcher who is a scouting supervisor for the Orioles on the West Coast) found himself in the middle of it last week.

Sprague's wife, Kristen Babb-Sprague, won the gold medal isynchronized swimming, aided somewhat by controversial scoring by one of the judges. The silver medal went to Canada's Sylvie Frechette, whose appeal was disallowed.

Sprague naturally was elated about his wife's success, buunwittingly created a furor in Toronto with comments made during a radio interview.

The Spragues' consolation is that they are a two-gold medafamily, Ed having played on the 1988 baseball team that won the gold in Seoul, South Korea.

Sparky's destiny

The upheaval in Detroit is of little concern to manager Sparky Anderson, whom some predict could be in trouble when new ownership takes over.

"I win or I win," said Anderson, who has two years left on a contract worth $750,000 per year.

"I'm not in a position where I can be hurt," said Anderson, whwent into last night's game needing 24 wins to pass Hughie Jennings as the winningest manager in Detroit history. He already holds that distinction in Cincinnati.

"Maybe I could go someplace else, where nobody's been for long time, and be the winningest [manager] for a third team," mused Anderson.

Impertinent questions of the week

* Even if he doesn't have the RBI you'd expect from a fifth-place hitter, what's wrong with Randy Milligan getting all those walks in front of Joe Orsulak, who happens to be the Orioles' leading hitter?

* Tommy Lasorda will survive this year as manager of the Dodgers, but will he be asked back or want to return next season?

* First he was accused of scuffing baseballs, now they say he also throws at batters -- doesn't Nolan Ryan have any respect for youth?

* How come nobody in Toronto seems to like Kelly Gruber?

L * Doesn't Dennis Eckersley understand that nobody's perfect?

* How many managers have done as good a job in their first year as Milwaukee's Phil Garner?

* Are the Houston Astros being credited individually with frequent-flier miles for their month-long odyssey around the National League?

* Wouldn't Steve Palermo, the American League umpire who was shot last year, make an excellent analyst for one of the networks?

* How much longer will it be before baseball's licensing income (almost $70,000) catches up with the major-league minimum salary ($109,000)?

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