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Close but no cigar? It might be just the opposite for the Giants
this season. San Francisco probably won't come close to winning
the NL West, but G.M. Bob Quinn will have plenty of cigars,
including some of the finest Cubans.

The Giants are counting on Cuban righthander Osvaldo Fernandez
to rescue a rotation that last year had an ERA of 4.61 and only
one pitcher (Mark Leiter) who won more than seven games. Believe
it or not, the starters were the strength of the pitching
staff--the pathetic bullpen had an ERA of 5.35. Team management
took heat from several major league executives for guaranteeing
the unproven Fernandez $3.2 million over three years. There's no
consensus on the Cuban's stuff: Some scouts say he is a
junkballer who throws in the mid-80's and should be the 10th man
on a staff, but Marlins scout Gary Hughes says Fernandez is "a
great kid, great worker, and we clocked his pitches in the low

San Francisco welcomed Fernandez to the U.S. by serving Cuban
food at the press conference held to announce his signing, which
leftfielder Barry Bonds attended. "Barry kidded me that day,
saying, 'Sometimes we question what's going on in the front
office,'" Quinn said. "But he said, 'You've done your part. Now
it's up to us.' That was music to my ears."

The night of the signing, the front-office staff took Fernandez
to dinner, during which Cuban cigars were passed out. Quinn, who
loves a good stogie, took the one offered to him--and those of
the nonsmokers at the table.

The Giants didn't sign Fernandez simply because they think he
can pitch. They need someone to generate interest in the team
and to bolster attendance, which has dropped 40% over the last
two years, a major league high. This would in turn would help
persuade the city to build the team a new ballpark. But no
matter how good Fernandez is, he needs help. So the front office
shelled out more than $7 million to keep Leiter, first baseman
Mark Carreon, closer Rod Beck and rightfielder Glenallen Hill
when it was thought that at least one would have to go for
budgetary reasons. The Giants didn't offer a contract to Deion
Sanders but instead signed free agents Stan Javier and Shawon

"Ownership stepped up," said Quinn. "They said, 'Go out and win
the West.'"

Still, the Giants will likely be done in by their horrendous
pitching. The team acquired three hurlers from St.
Louis--starter Allen Watson and relievers Rich DeLucia and Doug
Creek--in exchange for shortstop Royce Clayton, but those
pitchers provide quantity, not quality. Last season the bullpen
not only had the highest ERA in the league, but it also allowed
an NL-high 64 home runs. That was a big reason the Giants gave
up 116 runs in the eighth inning, the most runs allowed in one
inning last year by any team in the majors. Even Beck (126 saves
over the last four seasons) struggled, leading the league with
10 blown saves.

Previous San Francisco squads have been able to overcome their
pitching woes with solid hitting, but last year's club led the
NL in only one offensive category: strikeouts. The offense will
certainly improve if third baseman Matt Williams, who broke a
bone in his right foot and played in only 76 games last year,
remains healthy. The Giants were 20-16 and Williams was hitting
.381 when he fouled a ball off his foot in early June. Without
him the team went 28-40. Even then, L.A. pitcher Tom Candiotti
noted, "they were still only four games out in September. We've
learned that you can never count the Giants out."

Javier, who came over from Oakland, gives San Francisco
something it didn't have last year: a consistent leadoff hitter.
Giants leadoff men--including Sanders and Darren Lewis, who was
traded to the White Sox--batted only .260 (third lowest in the
NL), had an on-base percentage of .316 (second worst) and stole
just 29 bases. Dunston gives the team an offensive upgrade at
shortstop. And Carreon, who didn't become a full-time starter
until June, hit .313 with nine home runs and 47 RBIs in the
second half of the season. A stronger lineup should provide some
protection for Bonds, who was often pitched around. He led the
NL in walks (120) for the third time in four years and in
intentional walks for the fourth straight year.

San Francisco could finish as high as second in the West.
However, unless Fernandez is at least as good as the Giants
think he is and another starter emerges, Quinn's Cuban cigars
won't be lit up at any victory celebration.


COLOR PHOTO: RONALD C. MODRA Williams can do it all--except pitch, and that's what the Giants need most. [Matt Williams in game]


1995 Team Statistics (NL rank in parentheses)

Batting Average .253 (12)
Home Runs 152 (5)
ERA 4.86 (13)
Fielding Pct. .980 (5)

Coming Up Short

New Giants shortstop Shawon Dunston batted a career-high .296
with 14 home runs and 69 RBIs for the Cubs last season. A
comparable performance this year would put him in some select
company. No shortstop in San Francisco Giants history (the team
moved from New York City in 1958) has ever batted above .282;
only Chris Speier and Daryl Spencer have hit as many as 14 home
runs, and only Speier, Spencer and Royce Clayton have driven in
at least 69 runs.

Best Single-Season Marks by San Francisco Giants Shortstops
(Minimum 100 games at short)

Batting average

Royce Clayton, 1993 .282
Chris Speier, 1975 .271
Chris Speier, 1972 .269
Jose Pagan, 1962 .259
Daryl Spencer, 1958 .256

Home runs

Daryl Spencer, 1958 17
Chris Speier, 1972 15
Chris Speier, 1973 11
Chris Speier, 1975 10
Ed Bressoud, 1960 9
Chris Speier, 1974 9


Daryl Spencer, 1958 74
Chris Speier, 1972 71
Chris Speier, 1973 71
Royce Clayton, 1993 70
Chris Speier, 1975 69


The arrival of shortstop Shawon Dunston has made just about
everyone in the Giants organization happy, with the possible
exception of first baseman Mark Carreon. How would you like to
catch Dunston's bullet throws in Candlestick when the wind is
whipping off the Bay? Dunston, 32, is coming off his best season
in the big leagues; it is a crime he didn't make the NL All-Star
team. All the same, due to his hefty price tag ($3.8 million in
'95), the Cubs opted not to offer him arbitration. Dunston, who
signed a one-year, $1.5 million deal with San Francisco, is not
as good defensively as Royce Clayton, who was dealt to St.
Louis, but he is a better hitter. Last season, in fact, Clayton
and the Rangers' Benji Gil were the only shortstops in the
majors with 100 or more strikeouts who hit fewer than 10 homers.



CF Stan Javier[**] .278, 8, 56, 36
2B Robby Thompson .223, 8, 23, 1
LF Barry Bonds .294, 33, 104, 31
3B Matt Williams .336, 23, 65, 2
1B Mark Carreon .301, 17, 65, 0
RF Glenallen Hill .264, 24, 86, 25
SS Shawon Dunston[**] .296, 14, 69, 10
C Kirt Manwaring .251, 4, 36, 1


IF Steve Scarsone .266, 11, 29, 3
C Tom Lampkin .276, 1, 9, 2
OF Marvin Benard(R) .304 BA in AAA


RH Mark Leiter 10-12, 3.82
RH William VanLandingham 6-3, 3.67
LH Osvaldo Fernandez (R) 4-3, 2.30*
RH Jamie Brewington 6-4, 4.54
LH Allen Watson[**] 7-9, 4.96


RH Rod Beck 33, 4.45
RH Mark Dewey 0, 3.13
RH Rich DeLucia[**] 0, 3.39
LH Shawn Barton 1, 4.26

*Dominican Republic Winter League statistics
[**] New acquisition (R) Rookie