After a promising start to the season, the high-priced Red Sox
have inexplicably fallen out of the playoff race
What in the name of Ted Williams has happened to the Red Sox? In
addition to having seven players selected for the All-Star Game,
Boston at week's end still had the AL's third-best team ERA
(3.81) and had outscored every other team in the majors except
the Yankees, Angels and Rangers. Righthanders Pedro Martinez and
Derek Lowe were a combined 35-11 and one-two in the league in
ERA. Interim general manager Mike Port had made several good
moves, acquiring outfielder Cliff Floyd and relievers Alan Embree
and Bob Howry. Even the team's defense was vastly better than it
was last year, as was its production from the leadoff spot.
Yet the Red Sox were all but out of the playoff picture,
finishing last weekend 9 1/2 games behind the Yankees in the AL
East and 8 1/2 in back of the Angels in the wild-card race with
21 games to play. Manager Grady Little essentially raised the
white flag before last Friday's 7-2 win over the Blue Jays,
saying it was time to start working young players into the
lineup to begin evaluating them for next year. "We've examined
everything from A to Z," says Port, "but when you go position by
position, can we do a lot better than what we have? The answer
Well, Boston has had a shaky bullpen, new first baseman Tony
Clark has had a nightmare season at the plate (.212, three home
runs), and the quality of the rotation nosedives after Martinez
and Lowe. "They fooled everybody early in the year," says an AL
advance scout, "but you can't go through a whole season with as
many question marks as they have on their pitching staff. When
you look at the whole team, they're not that good."
A lack of talent wasn't the only problem for the team with the
second-highest Opening Day payroll ($108 million) in the majors.
Little has hinted that his team--which has 10 players who will
become free agents after the season--was distracted last month
by talk of a strike. On Aug. 16, when the players' association
set the Aug. 30 walkout date, the Red Sox trailed Anaheim by 2
1/2 games. Since then Boston had won just 10 of 22 through Sunday.
The Red Sox most likely won't allow the 2003 payroll to exceed
the $117 million luxury-tax threshold. That means Boston, which
already has roughly $70 million committed to eight players for
next year, will have trouble re-signing many of those 10 free
agents, including Floyd and closer Ugueth Urbina.
After starting 2002 with so much promise, the Red Sox still can't
figure out what went wrong. "I don't think anyone can say why we
haven't won," says Lowe.
Salomon Torres's Comeback
Pitching on Five Years' Rest
On the final day of the 1993 season, when the Giants needed a
victory over the Dodgers to gain a tie for the NL West title, San
Francisco sent 21-year-old rookie righthander Salomon Torres to
the mound. Torres had won his first two starts after being called
up in August but had then lost four of five. He couldn't make it
out of the fourth inning against Los Angeles, and the Giants fell
12-1. Torres won just two of 15 more starts with San Francisco
before he was traded to the Mariners in May 1995 and then claimed
off waivers by the Expos in April '97. In July of that year
Torres, frustrated at being relegated to a relief role and
sporting an 11-25 career record, abruptly retired and returned
home to the Dominican Republic. He was 25.
Fast forward to last week, when Torres, wearing a Pirates
uniform, capped a remarkable comeback by pitching 81/3 shutout
innings against the Braves. "When I decided to come back after my
five-year vacation, I said, 'I'm going to get to the big
leagues,'" Torres says. "But what I did [against Atlanta]
exceeded my expectations."
Torres spent part of his "vacation" in the Dominican Republic as
a coach for the Expos' summer-league affiliate and as a
winter-ball pitcher. In January, Pittsburgh G.M. Dave
Littlefield, a former Expos player-development director, signed
him to a minor league deal.
Torres made a strong bid for a major league job by not allowing a
run in two spring training games. His velocity was down, but he
had good command and delivered his pitches at several arm angles.
The Pirates started him at Triple A Nashville, where he went 8-5
with a 3.83 ERA in 26 games (24 starts).
Depending on how he pitches for the rest of the season and next
spring--in his second start on Monday, Torres gave up five runs in
four innings--he could be part of Pittsburgh's 2003 rotation. "I
didn't want to be 40 years old and bitter," he says. "I didn't
want to think I'd wasted my talent all those years."
COLOR PHOTO: BOB ROSATO (LEFT) Nomar Garciaparra (left) doesn't need to be reminded of his team's futility.
COLOR PHOTO: MARK LENNIHAN/AP [See caption above]
COLOR PHOTO: ALAN MOTHNER/AP (TORRES) Out of the majors since 1997, Torres came back last week to beat the Braves.
COLOR PHOTO: SCOTT ROVAK/AFP Choi
NEXT UP IN THE WEEK AHEAD
HEADHUNTERS' BALL At week's end the Twins were on the verge of
clinching the AL Central title, but their four games in Cleveland
this weekend should still have an edge. A total of 12 batters
have been hit by pitches in their first 12 meetings. During the
last series they played, in July, Minnesota's Torii Hunter fired
a ball back at Indians righthander Danys Baez, who had drilled
GOOD TO SEE YOU, TOM Marlins catcher Mike Redmond is one of the
few hitters happy to face Tom Glavine, who was tied for third the
NL with a 2.80 ERA through Sunday. Redmond, a career .301 hitter,
is 21 for 37 (.568) lifetime against the Braves lefthander. He's
scheduled to take a few more cuts against Glavine in the second
game of a four-game series this weekend in Florida.
The Future Is Now
This is an important month for teams that miss the playoffs
because they'll be looking at their top prospects, who are called
up after rosters expand on Sept. 1. Here are five young players
to watch for the rest of the season.
PLAYER, POS., TEAM, AGE
Joe Borchard, OF, White Sox, 23
Former Stanford quarterback is Chicago's next centerfielder and
a budding slugger; homered in second major league at bat, on
Hee Seop Choi, 1B, Cubs, 23
Majors' first Korean position player hit 26 homers in Triple A
and first big league bomb on Sunday; will supplant Fred McGriff
Wayne Franklin, LHP, Brewers, 28
Acquired from Astros last week after leading Pacific Coast
League in strikeouts; will get chance to crack Milwaukee
rotation next year
Colby Lewis, RHP, Rangers, 23
Struggled earlier this year in Texas bullpen but pitched well in
Triple A (99 K's in 106 2/3 innings); auditioning for spot in '03
Victor Martinez, C, Indians, 23
Led Eastern League in batting, slugging and runs, and was voted
league's best defensive catcher; will get chance to unseat Einar