Strawberry to haunt Dodgers?


Something is happening. The chemistry of the National League West race has changed and the reason just might be the return of Darryl Strawberry. The troubled outfielder who once insisted that he would not play again this season is playing up a storm in a San Francisco Giants uniform, which could spell trouble for the division-leading Los Angeles Dodgers.

Strawberry has had a catalytic effect on the Giants' offense, particularly this weekend in Montreal. He hit a grand slam Thursday, added a home run Friday and an RBI yesterday as the streaking Giants cooled off one of the hottest teams and extended their winning streak to eight games.

They are within striking distance of the Dodgers, who missed an opportunity to put the Giants away in June and soon could find themselves under siege from a player who they sent away.

NL Central

Congratulations are in order for Ozzie Smith, who had three assists Thursday night to break Luis Aparicio's career record (8,016). Nobody has ever done it better -- or looked as good doing it. . . . Can anybody slow down Jeff Bagwell? The Astros' perennial NL Player of the Week went 4-for-5 Friday to increase his league-leading RBI total to 85. At that rate, he'll have 113 when the players go out on strike Aug. 16. . . . Former Orioles catcher Mark Parent is batting .310 as the No. 2 receiver on the Cubs. . . . The return of Pete Harnisch could play very large in the NL Central race. Harnisch is 4-0 with a 1.40 ERA since coming back from a shoulder injury.

NL East

Ex-Orioles first baseman David Segui is concerned about his future. He came back from an injury to find that he no longer had a full-time job, so he recently sent agent Tommy Tanzer to discuss his status with Mets general manager Joe McIlvaine. Segui is understandably discouraged. He was on a pace to hit 23 homers and drive in 86 runs when he went on the DL. . . . It looks like the Phillies will get third baseman Dave Hollins, outfielder Lenny Dykstra and pitcher Curt Schilling back from injuries in a week or so, but their horrible road performance in the first half (16-33) will keep them from the hunt.

AL West

The baseball world lost a true prince this week when ageless Jimmie Reese died of natural causes. Reese's baseball career spanned 77 years, dating from his first job as a batboy for the Pacific Coast League Los Angeles Angels in 1917 to a lengthy affiliation with the California Angels that lasted until his death at 92 last week. Former Angels pitcher Bert Blyleven paid him a touching tribute during Saturday night's ABC telecast of the Orioles-Angels game. "If I know Jimmie," Blyleven said, "he's hitting fungoes to God right now." . . . Perhaps they just weren't meant to play winning baseball in Seattle, where the Mariners announced this weekend that pitcher Chris Bosio will undergo knee surgery tomorrow.

AL Central

Is anyone ready for Albertgate? Major-league security personnel are investigating the likelihood that someone broke into the umpires locker room at Comiskey Park and pulled a switch after a bat was confiscated from Indians outfielder Albert Belle. The bat was to be checked for cork, but the umpires returned to their dressing room to find a different bat in its place. No truth to the rumor that the second bat was missing 18 1/2 inches of tape around the handle. . . . White Sox prospect Michael Jordan is learning all about the Mendoza line at Double-A Birmingham, where he entered the weekend with a .194 average. Maybe that should be embarrassing to an athlete of his stature, but you have to give him credit for sticking with it. . . . Somebody better show Royals rookie Bob Hamelin how to charge the mound before he gets hurt. Hamelin went after Greg Cadaret in the late innings of Friday night's 14-2 loss to the Tigers, but when he got to the mound, he shoved Cadaret and then turned to challenge the position players.

AL East

It was not a good week for Lee Smith, who gave up a game-winning home run to Mark McGwire last Sunday, served up a game-tying All-Star Game home run to Fred McGriff and gave up a tying shot to Bo Jackson Saturday night. Smith's 11 home runs in 50 innings with the Cardinals last year raised concern about his flagging velocity. His performance last week raised those concerns again. But remember, the guy has 30 saves in little more than a half season. One bad week doesn't change that. . . . Yankees manager Buck Showalter put himself on the hot seat when he was quoted in New York Times Magazine criticizing Ken Griffey for his casual attitude and dress during pre-game warm-ups. Showalter took particular offense to Griffey's habit of wearing his cap backward. Note to Buck: Put a lid on it, with the bill pointing any direction you want.

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