If you are Rick Burleson, Jim Kern, Tippy Martinez, Moose Haas, Dennis Leonard or John Montefusco, this was a wonderful spring, a time to jump-start careers that appeared to be over six months ago.

If you are Phil Niekro, you have had a bittersweet spring. Your career appeared to be over March 28 when the New York Yankees put you on waivers. But six days later, the Cleveland Indians not only claimed you, but put you in their starting rotation.

Niekro, 47, will start the Indians' home opener Friday against the Detroit Tigers, then, irony of irony, pitch April 16 against the Yankees, one of whom is his brother Joe.

If you are George Steinbrenner, you saw the hated rivals from Baltimore shut out your team for 35 straight spring innings, and you are angry. You say your hitters haven't had as many at bats as Earl Weaver's hitters and your pitchers haven't pitched as many innings as Weaver's pitchers. You say you're not questioning your manager, but, as always, you are.

"I'm not happy with the way some of the hitters are coming along," Steinbrenner said after a 5-0 loss to the Orioles Friday. "I don't think you can pick the Yankees to win in the East, not off what I've seen so far. We'll be contenders, but I'm not optimistic for a fast start."

If you are the Yankees' manager, Lou Piniella, you would laugh at all of this, but this is the owner who called the the third game of the 1985 season "crucial" and fired Manager Yogi Berra after 16 games.

Elsewhere around baseball, spring was no laughing matter for:

Atlanta third base coach Russ Nixon, who pulled a leg muscle while signaling for a base runner to hold at third.

Boston catcher Marc Sullivan, who went 13 straight at bats without putting a ball in play.

Milwaukee outfielder Paul Householder, who was standing in an on-deck circle when a screen cover broke loose and knocked him down.

San Diego catcher Terry Kennedy, who found a Dave Kingman home run ball in his car, via the back windshield.

Cleveland outfielder Mel Hall, who, chasing a hit, became stuck in an outfield fence.

Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Pedro Guerrero had switched to shoes with rubber cleats after he tore up an ankle in 1977. He wore the rubber ones for eight years, then switched back to metal ones this spring.

He got one of those cleats caught in the Vero Beach infield dirt Friday, tore up a knee and is out of action for about four months. Dodgers team physician Frank Jobe performed surgery Friday to repair the patella tendon, the one that connects the kneecap and shinbone.

Jobe did similar surgery on Wilt Chamberlain in November 1969, and it was four months before he could even begin working out again.

Guerrero's injury makes it more likely that left-hander Jerry Reuss will be traded for outfield help. Although Reuss went 14-10 with a 2.92 ERA last year, trading him may be a problem since he is 37 and has $2.25 million left on his contract.

Reuss is the oldest starting pitcher the Dodgers have had since their move to Los Angeles, and teams know they're anxious to trade because rookie left-hander Dennis Powell is ready to step into the rotation.

Atlanta Manager Chuck Tanner told Pascual Perez on March 16 he had made the team, a decision Tanner took back after Perez showed up late for three practices and a team meeting and missed a bus on a day he was scheduled to pitch. The last straw was Monday, when Perez came to the clubhouse, announced he had a stomach virus and left without being examined. He was released the next day.

San Diego General Manager Jack McKeon thought he had worked out a deal for pitcher Rick Rhoden when Pittsburgh General Manager Syd Thrift called back and said he'd changed his mind. It was Thrift who had set the original terms for the deal, then, in effect, turned down the trade he'd proposed.

Will Phil Niekro fit into the Indians' rotation? Maybe. The planned starting staff of Ken Schrom, Neal Heaton, Tom Candiotti, Jose Roman and Rich Yett was 18-33 with a 5.03 ERA in 1985.

Catcher Lance Parrish and pitcher Jack Morris criticized Detroit Tigers management this week, with Parrish saying: "They're the cheapest franchise in baseball. Not just in salaries, but in facilities and other things."

Morris and Parrish are eligible for free agency after the 1986 season, and have been offered only two-year extensions. Parrish said he would put his Detroit home on the market in July.