Tom Trebelhorn, the former Chicago Cubs manager who is now a minor-league instructor for the Orioles, has the roots of an innovator. His mentor is Syd Thrift, an innovator who once was hired by Charles Finley, an innovator who died last week.
And in his moments of idle thought, Trebelhorn the innovator has come up with a terrific Trebelhorn compromise for those who love the National League rules and those who love the designated hitter.
He calls it the designated pinch hitter, and this is how it works: The manager will have a lineup like they use in the NL, with the pitcher batting. But on his lineup card, the manager notates one player who will serve in the role of designated pinch hitter, and during the course of the game, he can use this player four times -- in any spot in the lineup, from No. 1 to No. 9, never twice in the same inning.
Suppose the Orioles are playing the New York Yankees, and Rafael Palmeiro is the designated pinch hitter for the day. The Orioles load the bases with one out in the second inning, and No. 8 hitter and right fielder Jeffrey Hammonds is due to bat against right-hander David Cone.
Manager Davey Johnson could have Palmeiro bat for Hammonds, attempting to break open the game early, and Hammonds would return to right field the next inning.
The beauty in this idea is that it serves the interests of those who support and those who hate the designated hitter. Those who prefer the DH like the idea of keeping older hitters such as Eddie Murray and Harold Baines active, and with the designated pinch hitter, Murray and Baines would have a place in the game.
Some prefer the NL rules and all the strategy and decisions involved in having the pitcher in the lineup -- when to pinch-hit, when to get the bullpen warmed up -- and the DPH would create even more situations requiring decisions by the manager.
"It would certainly put a lot of pressure on the manager," Trebelhorn said.
Should the manager use the DPH early, or hold him out until late in the game? Should the DPH bat for the other good hitters in the lineup in an attempt to exploit a potentially favorable matchup, or just bat for the weaker hitters? Should a good fielder like Ken Griffey be used as a DPH -- the manager must choose between picking and choosing spots for his best hitter -- or should the manager keep Griffey in the outfield and gamble Griffey would bat in critical situations?
How could the opposing manager handle his bullpen, knowing that his move can be countered with the insertion of the DPH, likely an exceptional hitter?
"I think fans would like that," Trebelhorn said. "Any time you've got fans thinking about strategy -- [saying] he should've batted [the DPH] in that spot, or he should've waited for another chance -- it gets them involved. It could be tremendous."
Orioles general manager Pat Gillick likes the idea. "It could be very interesting for the fans," he said.
B. J. Surhoff needs some time thinking about the plan before saying whether it would work, but he likes the effort. Baseball will need one set of rules eventually, he said, a uniform set of rules.
"It's something worth talking about," Surhoff said. "It's good to be talking over some ideas [how to handle it]."
Orioles still shopping
The Orioles' haven't resumed talks with the Padres for outfielder Melvin Nieves. If they can't get him, there are two others who fit the description of a left-handed hitter who can play more than one spot in the outfield -- Kansas City outfielder Jon Nunnally and Philadelphia's Jim Eisenreich.
Nunnally, 24, batted .244 for the Royals with 14 homers, 42 RBIs and six stolen bases. He has terrific range in right field and in left. But his strikeout ratio is a little high for a bench player (86 in 303 at-bats).
Eisenreich would be perfect for the Orioles, a terrific offensive and defensive player who may be available because of the glut of outfielders in Philadelphia (Lenny Dykstra, Lee Tinsley, Darren Daulton). But Eisenreich is a more expensive solution; he'll make million this year.
* Jayson Stark of the Philadelphia Inquirer found this interesting incentive clause in the contract of White Sox designated hitter Baines, which may be the most absurd in baseball: If Baines wins a Gold Glove Award, he gets $50,000. You remember Baines -- a good guy who didn't even bother bringing a glove with him during batting practice.
* Colorado equipment manager Dan McGinn struggled to find a pair of pants that would fit young bopper Derrick Gibson, who hit .292 with 32 homers, 115 RBIs and 31 steals for Single-A Asheville last season. Eventually, McGinn gave him baseball pants with a 40-inch waist so they would fit Gibson's huge thighs (McGinn will have to take in about 4 inches on the waist, however). "Luckily, I had pants left over from Fantasy Camp," McGinn said.
* If Larry Walker decides he doesn't want to play center field, the Rockies will move him back to right, with Dante Bichette in left and Ellis Burks in center.
Not so sweet
* Cincinnati owner Marge Schott, who offered no raises to club employees during the off-season, left candy bars on the desks of front-office members. Coupons inside the wrapper revealed the chocolate was made in 1990, a fine vintage for chocolates.
* Schott angered Jose Rijo by asking the injured pitcher to pay for his seat on the team flight to Los Angeles during the playoffs last year, and now Rijo says he wants out of Cincinnati. The cost to the team would have been about $500.
"I won't ever forget that," Rijo said. "I love everybody in this organization, I love the city, I love my teammates. It's just one person [Schott]. If it were up to [general manager] Jim Bowden, we'd have the best team in baseball -- better than Baltimore, better than Atlanta."
* Sparky Anderson is still hoping for another shot at managing a good team. "All I want is a team that has a chance," he said. "I'm not asking for Atlanta, I'm not asking for Cleveland. But if I got a call from a club that has a chance to win in two years, oh, yes, I'd go back."
July trades haunt Rockies
* When the trading deadline rolls around this July, the Colorado Rockies might want to think twice about participating. The club has made two horrendous July trades.
First, in July 1993, they traded catcher Brad Ausmus and pitchers Andy Ashby and Doug Bochtler to San Diego for pitchers Greg Harris and Bruce Hurst, and ate $1 million of Hurst's remaining salary. Harris and Hurst were terrible, and the three players they dealt play integral roles for the Padres.
Then last July, they traded minor-league pitcher Juan Acevedo to the New York Mets for Bret Saberhagen, ignoring medical reports that revealed tearing in the rotator cuff of Saberhagen (which scared away the Red Sox and Orioles). Acevedo has been stunning in Mets camp this spring, and Saberhagen is battling shoulder problems and may not pitch while earning $4.5 million this season.
* Lee Smith, who tore a tendon in his knee while hunting during the off-season, arrived in the Angels' camp in good shape and threw better than expected. However, the club's medical staff intends to bring him back slowly, perhaps not until the end of April.
The Ozzie question
* Sometime before the start of spring training, new St. Louis manager Tony La Russa is going to have to decide what to do with Ozzie Smith. The future Hall of Fame shortstop wants to play this year and says he won't move to second, and the Cardinals intend to use shortstop Royce Clayton, acquired in a trade with San Francisco.
"What I've done over 18 years speaks for itself," Smith said last week. "But they already seem to have made decisions. . . . We'll deal with this head-on and see what happens."
What happens may be La Russa telling Smith he can either be satisfied with a limited role off the bench, or released. Smith wants to reach 2,500 hits for his career, and needs 104 more.
* Randy Myers wasn't the only player late to camp. California DH Chili Davis is several days late. "I think he had visa problems coming in from Scottsdale," said California GM Bill Bavasi.
* The Seattle Mariners will go with a couple of youngsters on the left side of the infield -- shortstop Alex Rodriguez, the first pick of the 1993 draft, and rookie third baseman Russ Davis, acquired from the New York Yankees during the off-season.
McLemore better in OF?
* During the course of his career, Mark McLemore has hit much better as an outfielder, but he'll be the everyday second baseman for the Rangers this year.
* Now that La Russa has moved to the NL, you'd think he and Jose Canseco would stop sniping at each other. Alas. When Canseco showed up late in the Red Sox camp this week, La Russa said, "The stars want to make statements."
* His new Florida Marlins teammates are already chortling over the physical condition of pitcher Livan Hernandez, the Cuban defector signed to a four-year, $4.5 million contract. Hernandez showed up in camp seriously overweight, and he could complete only 10 of the 12 sprints required of all pitchers on the first day. He didn't make it through his first workout on a stationary bike, either. Shades of Sid Fernandez.