In every game he has pitched this year, Toronto ace Dave Stieb has had to deal with a sore right elbow. Sometimes—like Saturday night in Chicago when he no-hit the White Sox for eight innings—he uses a little of this, a little of that and a lot of guts, with winning results. Other times, as in a loss early last week to last-place Cleveland, he can't fake and fight his way through.
The problem has become more acute since the All-Star break. Stieb, 9-5 with a 1.86 ERA for the first half, is 3-4, 3.43 since. But with Luis Leal struggling in Triple A and Jim Clancy not expected off the DL until mid-September, Stieb needs more games like Saturday night's for the Blue Jays, whose AL East lead over the Yankees has shrunk to three games.
An AL scout who has been following the Jays says Stieb's fastball is not up to snuff and that his sore elbow limits his use of his terrific slider, a pitch that taxes the elbow. "The pain doesn't make the job any easier," says Stieb, who has adjusted by throwing more curves. "The day after I pitch, it really aches, but I'm getting accustomed to it." Says G.M. Pat Gillick, "You've got to be concerned, but what can you do? You got to keep sending him out there."
Remember how surprised everyone was when the St. Louis Cardinals gave Ozzie Smith, a lifetime .238 hitter, $2 million a year to play shortstop? Well, Ozzie has turned tiger. The Wizard of Ahs is hitting .267 after batting .231 during his four years in San Diego and .249 for his first three in St. Louis.
"You have to remember," he says, "that I came to the big leagues after only 68 games in the minors. I had to learn how to hit up here, basic things like what angle to hold the bat head at. I'm proud of the way I've improved, because no player wants to be considered one-dimensional."
If you're wondering about that first dimension, Smith has committed only nine errors in 118 games.
Three years ago he was a 19th-round draft choice of the Royals. This year 21-year-old Bret Saberhagen is a leading candidate (along with the Yankees' Ron Guidry, 16-4) for the AL Cy Young Award. After a 10-11 rookie season, he's 16-5 with a 2.81 ERA. His fastball has picked up some speed, and his control has been enviable. He has walked only 28 batters in 179‚Öì innings. "The only two pitchers I've ever caught who had his control were Fergie Jenkins and Gaylord Perry," says Jim Sundberg. "And they were a lot older."
Lance Parrish, whose Tigers have lost to the youngster three times since July 29, says Saberhagen's fastball is straight, "but his control is so good that you can cover only half the plate."
When Detroit's Nelson Simmons, a spring-training phenom who flunked an early-season trial, was brought up recently from Triple A, he went 11 for 23 with four homers and 11 RBIs. And what did manager Sparky Anderson have to say about that? Nothing. "I'm never going to talk about a young kid again," said Anderson. This spring Sparky announced that Chris Pittaro was "the best young in-fielder I've ever had come through a spring-training camp of mine."
Pittaro, who started the season at third, is hitting .192 in Triple A, and a humbled Anderson says, "I've learned my lesson. I'm going to let him [Simmons] play every day. Then we'll see. Wait until he faces the really good pitchers. That's when you judge." Wise decision. Simmons has had three hits in his last 24 at bats.
Charlie Hough has to be one of the AL's best-kept secrets. The Ranger knuckle-baller, 13-12 this year, is 60-52 since becoming a starter in '82. While that may not get him to Cooperstown, his winning percentage of .535 is 130 points higher than the Rangers' in that period, and if you subtract his record from theirs.... The Indians' centerfielder-leadoff man Brett Butler is another first-rate player (he hasn't made an error this season) buried on a last-place team. He's hitting .306 with a .363 on-base percentage, is second in the AL in triples (12), is fourth in steals (35) and is hitting .396 with runners in scoring position.... The Yankees' Rickey Henderson could become the first player since Bert Campaneris in 1970 to lead the AL in stolen bases and have more than 20 home runs.... After the Yankees' Ken Griffey made a remarkable catch to rob Boston's Marty Barrett of a ninth-inning, game-tying homer early last week, Bob Shirley asked, "How come I don't get any of the credit? Behind every great catch, there's a pitcher who threw the pitch to make the catch possible."
Carlton Fisk finally caught Willie Wilson stealing, but he had to bean him to do it. Wilson was nearing second when Fisk's peg hit him at the base of his skull.
White Sox shortstop Ozzie Guillen made the tag as the K.C. outfielder lay on the ground, his feet straddling the bag but not quite touching it. "I felt my body moving," Wilson said, "but I couldn't do anything."
"I hated to do it," said Guillen, "but it was my job. I had to tag him fast because the trainer was coming out, and I thought they would call time."
Wilson spent the night in the hospital with a concussion and missed Wednesday's game but returned to hit a pair of triples in the Royals' 7-3 win over the White Sox the next night.
When he was winning earlier this season, Boston pitcher Oil Can Boyd was a charming, if brash, young man with a talented right arm and a flair for the dramatic. Now he has lost seven of his last 10 decisions and his charm as well.
His latest explosion came after a 5-3 loss to Texas last Wednesday. The Can stalked around the Red Sox clubhouse muttering about lack of support and provoked Jim Rice into a shouting and shoving match. "We're busting our butts out there and you're acting like we're not trying," Rice shouted. Boyd, who did some shoving with Rick Miller earlier this season after a 1-0 loss, was a no-show Thursday and missed half of Friday and was docked two days' pay.
In the Oakland Coliseum, nary a soul is complaining about the trade that sent outfielder Rickey Henderson to the Yankees. Henderson, 26, may be a superstar, but the A's, desperate for arms, got four pitchers who could be around for years. Jay Howell, at 29 the oldest of the bunch, has 23 saves and a 1.93 ERA; hard-throwing lefty Tim Birtsas, 24, is 9-4 since being promoted from Triple A; righty Jose Rijo, 20, who throws harder than Birtsas, is 2-1 with 18 Ks in 15‚Öì innings since his recall; and righty Eric Plunk, 22, yet another power pitcher, is in Triple A after starting the year in Double A.
"Somebody told me in the dugout, 'This guy's got nothing,' " Reggie Jackson of the Angels said after Rijo struck him out twice last week. "I got up to the plate and I didn't even see the first pitch."
Jerry Koosman, the Phils' 42-year-old lefty and the oldest starter in the NL, is back on the DL with a sore left knee, which required arthroscopic surgery earlier this season. Koosman, who allowed 11 runs in 2‚Öì innings over his last two starts, may retire next year if he can't hook up with a team closer to his Minnesota home.... Steve Carlton, the Phillies' 40-year-old lefty with the sore shoulder, threw about 100 pitches in a simulated game Friday. Carlton, who last pitched June 18, may be activated soon.... San Diego's LaMarr Hoyt, who said he had never missed a start before, did so last Saturday because of a shoulder that has been hurting for a month, which may explain his 0-4 record and 7.29 ERA over his last six starts.... The Chicago Cubs, who have spent much of the season consulting doctors, returned the favor by hosting a benefit dinner for cancer research programs at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. The well-scrubbed Cubs showed up in tuxedos for the Wrigley Field affair.... San Diego Padres third baseman Graig Nettles, who had a birthday last week, said his name changed that day, at least in the newspapers. "For the last year I've been '40-year-old Graig Nettles.' Now it's '41-year-old Graig Nettles.' "...Pirates manager Chuck Tanner is part of a group interested in buying the Pirates and making him G.M. as well as manager. But don't hold your breath. The Pirates lost a reported $6 million last year and may drop $9 million this year. Says Tanner, "We don't have that kind of money to lose."...He's No Fluke Dept.: Ryne Sandberg of the Cubs has hit five homers in 13 games since moving from second to third or fourth in the batting order. Sandberg has a career-high 20 for the year, and the night he hit No. 20 he became the first National Leaguer with 30 steals and 20 homers.... Willie McGee, leading the NL batting race by 34 points at .361, says former teammate George Hendrick taught him how to curb his hyper personality and relax. "Nothing seems to bother George," says McGee. "I would leave the park feeling down, but by the time we got home [the two car-pooled], I'd be laughing and looking forward to the next day."...When Steve Sax walked into his Philly hotel room last week he noticed something under the covers of the bed. The Dodgers' second baseman found the head of a pig with an apple in its mouth and a note attached that read: "Play better baseball—or else." It was signed, "The Godfather." Sax figured out who did it. Roast pork had been a main course earlier that day at the restaurant owned by Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda and his brothers.
Cubs coach Don Zimmer tuxed it up for charity.
WHOLE LOT OF SEOUL
Firing a 75-mph fastball, You-Yong Jung had a one-hitter Saturday as Seoul, South Korea beat Mexico's Mexicali team 7-1 to win the Little League World Series.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
LEE SMITH: The Cubs won four games and Smith had a save in each of them, giving him 28 for the season. In 5‚Öì innings, he fanned five, walked two and gave up two hits and no earned runs.
"I'm having a communication problem with the Orioles," said Ranger lefty Chris Welsh, who has a 23.64 ERA against Baltimore but a 2.70 against the rest of the league. "I can't seem to communicate to them that I'm a good pitcher."