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Forearmed is forewarned, but White Sox let young pitchers get away

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Always, repeat, always keep your young pitchers.

White Sox general manager Ron Schueler did not follow that advice. Consequently, the White Sox have a very good pitching staff, not a great one.

They have a good future in the pitching department, not a very, very good one.

Schueler, whose wise acquisitions included outfielders Tim Raines, Darrin Jackson and since-departed Ellis Burks, and second baseman Joey Cora, looked at the organization he inherited from current Cubs GM Larry Himes, and saw a surplus of young pitching.

He figured the best way to make a coming organization better was to deal some of that young pitching. He figured wrong.

First, he blew it in a big way by trading Melido Perez, Bob Wickman and Domingo Jean to the Yankees for Steve Sax on Jan. 10, 1992.

Wickman, a reliever, and Perez, a starter, fill important roles on the Yankees' staff. Jean, since dealt to the Houston Astros, recently underwent shoulder surgery for a torn labrum.

During the pennant race last season, Schueler dealt young right-handers Johnny Ruffin and Jeff Pierce to Cincinnati for Tim Belcher. Ruffin, a hard thrower, has a bright future as a relief pitcher.

The White Sox failed to protect John Hudek on their 40-man roster after the 1992 season, and the Detroit Tigers drafted him.

The Houston Astros claimed the hard thrower on waivers last July, after he was a bust in the minors for the Tigers.

Hudek pitched for the National League in last week's All-Star Game.

Had Schueler kept himself from trading young pitchers, the White Sox could have started this season with the following 10 pitchers, plus a left-hander grabbed off the waiver wire:

Starters Wilson Alvarez, Jason Bere, Alex Fernandez, Jack McDowell and Perez; relievers Ruffin, Wickman, Jean, Roberto Hernandez and Hudek.

All 10 pitchers were either acquired in trades or drafted during Himes' tenure as general manager of the White Sox. His first big trade came when he ripped off Kansas City's John Schuerholz by dealing Floyd Bannister for Perez and Greg Hibbard.

If Schueler had not traded young arms, the White Sox not only would have the 10 pitchers mentioned above in the majors, they would have not only hard throwers James Baldwin and Scott Ruffcorn, but Brian Boehringer as well. He was traded for left-handed reliever Paul Assenmacher.

Shake-up in K.C. possible

The Kansas City Royals might clean house, sweeping general manager Herk Robinson and manager Hal McRae out of jobs in the process.

"There's only three options," Robinson said.

"You can do nothing, you can change personnel, or you can make a change with the manager. I'm not 100 percent satisfied. I don't want to speak for Hal, but I know he's not 100 percent satisfied. I think we all have to perform better. The players, myself, the manager. Some good things have happened in the first half, but overall it's been disappointing."

Just one of those years

The Philadelphia Phillies were 13 1/2 games behind the Montreal Expos at the All-Star break and 16 games off their pace from a yearago.

Eleven players had combined for 15 stints on the disabled list this season and 443 missed games.

The (disabled) list: John Kruk twice, Wes Chamberlain, Kevin Stocker, Ben Rivera, Curt Schilling, Dave Hollins, Lenny Dykstra, Darren Daulton.

"The guys we needed, the big dogs, we don't have them anymore, and there's nothing we can do about it," pitcher Tommy Greene said.

Said second baseman Mickey Morandini: "This is just one of those years where you say, what if. We have about 10 what ifs on the disabled list."

Stewart on way out

Toronto's Dave Stewart, as cool a guy as there is in the game, appears on his way out.

"If I knew I could stay healthy it would be different, but I'm sure this season is going to be it," Stewart said.

"I'd like to get healthy enough to help us finish the season, but I also know people are going, "God, he's hurt again? I don't want to be remembered like that."

Strawberry's field a tough one

Darryl Strawberry was signed by the San Francisco Giants to hit home runs, which was what he did in his first two games. He also is playing right field, no easy assignment in windy Candlestick Park.

"I missed a ball here once when I was playing right field," Giants manager Dusty Baker said.

"That ball got in the wind and had me doing the cha-cha, the merengue and the salsa. I never put a glove on it. No one wants to play right field here, but Darryl said, 'Hey, I can handle it,' and I said, 'OK dude, let's go.' At this stage, he's so happy to be back he'd play in Siberia."

A prospect reborn

Right-hander Rick Huisman, a one-time phenom in the San Francisco Giants organization, went 16-4 and struck out 212 batters in 170 minor-league innings in 1991. He suffered a shoulder injury last season, was removed from the Giants' 40-man roster and claimed by the Astros.

Huisman is making a comeback as a closer in Double-A.

He has 20 saves and is 2-0 with a 1.90 ERA and has 47 strikeouts in 32 innings.

"Those hitters didn't have a chance," said Astros outfielder Steve Finley, who saw Huisman during an injury rehabilitation assignment. "They didn't come close to getting around on him."

Again, always keep hard-throwing young pitchers.

From driving range to Rangers

Tim Leary was resigned to his career being over after he quit his Triple-A job June 7 in Ottawa. Leary was granted his release and returned to his Southern California home, golfed and played with his kids.

When the Texas Rangers visited Anaheim Stadium late last month, Leary's agent, Dennis Gilbert, called the Rangers and arranged a tryout for Leary.

The Rangers liked what they saw enough to sign him.

He appeared out of the bullpen July 2, allowed one hit and one walk and struck out five in 4 2/3 innings, then was placed in the Rangers' rotation.

Leary, an 11-game winner for the Seattle Mariners last season, did not receive any major-league contract offers during the winter.

He signed a minor-league deal with the Montreal Expos, underwent an appendectomy, then pitched poorly at Ottawa. He went 2-4 with a 5.40 ERA and gave up 70 hits in 50 innings for Ottawa. He quit out of frustration, then regained his fastball during his time off.

Leary, the 12th starting pitcher the Rangers have used, makes his second start tomorrow for the Rangers.

AL Rookie of the Year sleeper

Kansas City Royals designated hitter Bob Hamelin, 26, has had back surgery, and he blew out his elbow in an arm-wrestling contest in Las Vegas. He is one tough guy to bring down, even for a guy who weighs 235 pounds and stands 6 feet tall.

Hamelin bounced back quickly from the elbow surgery and is on a pace to hit about 30 home runs and drive in more than 80 runs, which makes him a contender to win American League Rookie of the Year honors even though he seldom is mentioned as one.

Hamelin, a left-handed batter, hit 29 home runs at Omaha last season before getting called to the majors in September.

The overrated catcher

Those who follow the Texas Rangers closely were not surprised to see Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez drop a foul pop up and fail to block home plate twice during the American League's All-Star Game loss.

Rodriguez does not specialize in doing the little things.

For example, with two outs in the ninth and two runners on base with the Rangers leading 6-4 late in the first half of the season in a game against Cleveland, Eddie Murray struck out on an 0-2 pitch in the dirt. Rodriguez didn't block the ball, didn't run after it, and later said he didn't know the rule.

Didn't know the rule?

Rangers manager Kevin Kennedy lighted him up the next day in a team meeting.

"We can't use youth as an excuse anymore," Kennedy said. "He's been in the big leagues for three years. If he was as mentally strong as he is physically strong, he'd be a heck of a player."

Rodriguez is noted for having the strongest arm of any catcher in baseball, but just as there is more to kicking a football than having a strong leg, there is more to defending the running game than having a strong arm.

Going into the weekend, 14 straight runners who attempted to steal on Rodriguez were successful.

Rangers pitchers privately complain about Rodriguez's unwillingness to call any pitches in the dirt because he wants to give himself a chance to throw out runners.

Around the horn

Jose Canseco, relieved he didn't make the All-Star team, rested a strained right hip flexor during the break. He went 22-for-103 after suffering the injury June 7 in New York. . . . Bip Roberts told the San Diego Padres he no longer could move from the infield to the outfield on consecutive days because it puts too much stress on his throwing arm. Hmmm? . . . At the break, Colorado's No. 3 and 4 hitters Dante Bichette and Andres Galarraga had a combined 46 home runs and 150 RBIs and only 28 walks. . . . Whatever happened to Jack Clark? He is licensed to drive NHRA top fuel dragsters in the state of Texas. . . . California Angels designated hitter Chili Davis needs 137 second-half at-bats to bump his paycheck from $2.4 million to $3.05 million.

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