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Original Issue

BOSTON RED SOX: A trip out of town if he doesn't hit

For Boston, with its short left field, home is where the home run should be hit. Stuart and Mejias may hit them, but the pitchers won't be able to stop opponents from doing the same

Dick Stuart (right) has been accused of indifference, sullen-ness and poor fielding, yet Manager Johnny Pesky insists, "We'll probably sink or swim with him." As Pesky explains: "People say Stuart might drive us nuts, but he'll help us. I'm sure he'll do his best. He likes money. Ted Williams gave him a good line and told him what was expected of him." What the Red Sox hope is that Stuart will get off to a fast start, reversing the typical Boston slow starts of recent years. "Basically my trouble has been that I try to hit too many home runs," Stuart says. "I go on streaks where that's all I'll try for. When I'm not going well, I sit down and have a discussion with myself. I have several different batting stances, and I'll think about them and about what the pitchers have been throwing me. I'll give myself two or three weeks after the season starts to see how things are going. If I'm not doing well by then, I'll sit down and have a talk." Boston writers and officials fear that, unless he gets off to a decent start, Stuart will be subject to an even more unmerciful booing than he received in Pittsburgh. "There's very little foul territory in Boston, so that puts the fans close to the playing field, where they can really razz him," says Larry Claflin of the Boston Record-American. "They'll drive him out of town if he doesn't hit." Boston fans will have to become accustomed to Stuart's nonchalance and lackadaisical fielding. As a Boston pitcher said, "Dick's not as bad a fielder as they say—he's worse." Pitcher Dick Radatz was warned, "Your arm won't wear out, but your legs might from covering first base." Last spring Stuart often refused to go after ground balls that were a trifle out of his reach in fielding practice. Thus far, Stuart's Boston teammates and his new manager have tolerated him. They are all waiting to see what happens during the early weeks. A good start for Stuart would likely mean a higher finish for the Red Sox—and vice versa.

Last year the Red Sox batted a respectable .258, fourth-best in the league. But, when it came to home runs, they were a shaky sixth. Even with their short left-field line at Fenway Park the team hit fewer homers in Boston (72) than on the road (74). Manager Pesky, in an effort to get more right-handed power in the lineup, obtained Stuart (.228, 16 HRs, 64 RBIs) from Pittsburgh and Roman Mejias (.286, 24 HRs, 76 RBIs) from Houston. If the Red Sox got the Stuart who hit 35 homers and batted .301 in 1961, and if they got the Mejias who hit 19 home runs in his first 65 games last year rather than the one who had five in his final 81 games, they will be well set. Carl Yastrzemski looks as if he will be one of the finest batters in the majors (.296, 19 HRs, 94 RBIs). There was a difference of night and day, however, in some of the others. Chuck Schilling (.230) hit only .202 in daylight and .273 at night, Lou Clinton (.294, 18 HRs) batted 47 points higher in the evening than he did in the daytime, and Frank Malzone (.283, 21 HRs, 95 RBIs) was far better in the afternoon (.300) than at night (.258). Eddie Bressoud had yet another problem—left-handers. Against right-handers he hit .299, left-handers .208. What's needed is consistency.

Unless someone comes through this season, 1963 will mark the 10th year since Boston has had a 20-game winner (Mel Parnell). Three pitchers are capable of ending the drought, however. Bill Monbouquette (15-13, 3.33 ERA) appears to be the best bet. Gene Conley (15-14, 3.94 ERA), who does not seem to get weary after playing basketball for the New York Knicks all winter, and Earl Wilson (12-8, 3.90 ERA), who needs to sharpen his control, are the other two. Since he is the only experienced left-hander in town, Boston plans to use Chet Nichols (3.00 ERA in relief last year) as a fourth starter. The rest of the Red Sox pitching staff is an unknown quantity; only Kansas City had a worse ERA in the AL last year. Dick Radatz (9-6, 2.23 ERA and 144 strikeouts in 125 innings), the league's best reliever, will need all the help he can get in the bullpen. Jack Lamabe (3-1, 2.88 ERA at Pittsburgh) appears capable of providing it.

Plans to convert Yastrzemski into a center fielder have been abandoned: he is too expert at playing the billiard-like caroms off Fenway Park's left-field wall. It is also felt that Mejias, who has good speed but was the worst outfielder in the NL last year, will actually have less trouble in center than he would in left. Bressoud, the team's best shortstop in a decade, and Schilling excel on the double play. Malzone has slowed down around third but is still a respectable fielder.