Holy Moses, look who has a chance to win the American League West: the Minnesota Twins. For a couple of years, they were only a bullpen away from competing, but bullpens are sometimes harder to build than domed stadiums.
And the Twins got theirs the old-fashioned way: They got lucky. They were able to trade Neal Heaton (39-56) for Jeff Reardon. Never mind Heaton's fast start in Montreal because the Twins got what they needed. Reardon has been alternately wonderful and terrible, but he does have 12 saves, and a year ago the Twins totaled 24. The Twins also got Juan Berenguer, released by the San Francisco Giants, who has become a valuable middle man and spot starter.
Then this week, they traded catcher Mark Salas to the Yankees for Joe Niekro. A lot of people don't believe Niekro has much left in his old arm, but knuckleballers do well in the Metrodome.
Trading Salas, 26, for a 42-year-old pitcher might seem like bad business, but in the AL West the rules are different. Where else could the White Sox go on a 2-8 trip and lose only two games in the standings? . . .
The San Diego Padres thought they'd seen everything until Marvell Wynne hurt his back dodging ball four. He was carried to a hospital on a stretcher and was put on the disabled list . . . The Oakland A's are losing patience with Joaquin Andujar, on the disabled list for the third time this season. He pulled a hamstring the other night when a spike caught on the mound and was booed off the field in Oakland. He has pitched 17 2/3 innings this year, this after telling the A's he would tend to his own spring training and rehabilitation. But there's a suspicion that he just doesn't want to pitch there. He was on the disabled list once in his 10 National League seasons.Altobelli Forgotten
In a recent issue of Baseball Digest, former Oriole Tippy Martinez recounted his most memorable moment. That would be Aug. 24, 1983, when he picked three Blue Jays off first base, and in the article he mentioned Manager Earl Weaver bringing him into the game. The Orioles' manager then was Joe Altobelli . . .
Red Sox Manager John McNamara will have trouble picking his all-star pitcher, especially because it's worth $300,000 to his own Roger Clemens. Despite that, it appears others are more deserving, including Jack Morris, Mark Langston, Bret Saberhagen, Dave Righetti, Dan Plesac, Tom Henke and Mark Eichhorn. That would leave McNamara picking only one or two names from a group that includes Bruce Hurst, Clemens, Jimmy Key, Curt Young and Mike Boddicker.
Hurst looks like a lock, having gone 5-1 with a 2.43 earned run average and six complete games in his last eight starts. He hasn't lost since May 15 . . . Montreal's Heaton had never batted in college, the minor leagues or the major leagues before this season. He's gone 11 for 34 (.324) . . .
There's speculation that the Astros' pitchers are throwing a new kind of scuff ball, one that involves, not roughing up one spot on the ball, but polishing it. The result is a pitch that rises and sails away from right-handed hitters. Astros pitchers struck out 31 Giants in three games this week, and Giants catcher Bob Brenly said: "I've never seen pitchers throw fastballs with that kind of rotation. They defy aerodynamics." . . .
Yankees owner George Steinbrenner threw a tantrum after his team was swept by Toronto, telling reporters that Dennis Rasmussen might be sent to the minors, that Dan Pasqua and Mike Pagliarulo have been "bitter disappointments" and that the new few weeks will test character.
He also said he wouldn't be against a lie-detector test to see if Don Mattingly did hurt his back wrestling pitcher Bob Shirley. He said he believes Mattingly, but added: "If I ever find out different, he'll rue the day." Speculation now is that Mattingly's back has been hurting a while, especially with 42 of his 64 hits only singles. In the eight days since he left the lineup, the Yankees have hit .237 . . . Mets outfielder Darryl Strawberry has run up $1,750 in fines this year, and management is worried and angry. He was at a disco at 4 a.m. Tuesday before showing up late for batting practice . . .
Philadelphia catcher Lance Parrish has troubles, too. He was booed mercilessly at Veterans Stadium after the Cardinals stole six bases Wednesday night. In that series, they went 10 for 11, and the only time they weren't successful was when Kevin Gross got away with a balk to get Vince Coleman at the plate. If you don't count that one, the Cardinals have stolen 41 straight bases against the Phillies. Parrish, hitting in the low .200s, blames Detroit Tigers Manager Sparky Anderson for telling NL clubs how to pitch him . . .
Don Sutton's 2-7 start is the worst of his 22-year career . . . When Alan Trammell moved ahead of Wade Boggs in the AL batting race this week, Anderson said: "Boggs lets people borrow it for a few days every now and then -- just to let them know what it feels like." A year ago, Anderson told Earl Weaver: "I can never get fired as long as I have Jack Morris here. He keeps me looking good." Here's the proof: Since the start of the 1985 season, the Tigers are 53-29 in games started by Morris, 147-150 otherwise . . .
The Royals apparently would like to trade or release first baseman Steve Balboni and bring up Jim Eisenreich, who is leading the Southern League in hitting . . . It's hard to imagine the Cincinnati Reds winning their division unless they come up with some pitching. Their starting rotation has a 5.44 ERA and is averaging 5 1/3 innings a start. In the overworked bullpen, Ron Robinson has a sore elbow after pitching or warming up in 47 of the first 54 games. Reds General Manager Bill Bergesch apparently now believes he'll have to trade one of his young stars for a pitcher. His most marketable are Kal Daniels and Kurt Stillwell, and one possible trade has Daniels going to the White Sox for Rich Dotson . . .
Steinbrenner sent Joe Niekro champagne last week, then traded him two days later. Niekro left the bottle in the Yankees clubhouse with a note that said, "No thanks." . . . The Pittsburgh Pirates have used seven rookie pitchers, including Mike Dunne, the 13th member of the '84 U.S. Olympic team to make the majors . . .
Weight stories: The Detroit Tigers put Darnell Coles on the disabled list because he was fat. He has lost 14 pounds in 14 days. The Expos say Floyd Youmans won't pitch again until he sheds 20 pounds . . .
Seattle's Langston led the league in strikeouts last year and had 59 after 13 starts. This year, he has 106 after 13 starts . . . The Royals have no idea how to straighten out Danny Jackson (2-8, 4.14). He can't throw strikes . . .
When the Blue Jays took over first place in the AL East, it was the first time since 1983 that that division had had a league change after May. Detroit led wire to wire in 1984; Toronto took over first place on May 13, 1985; and Boston moved into first for good on May 16, 1986 . . . If the Dodgers sign Danny Heep, they'll apparently release Kenny Landreaux.
That's only one of their problems. The other is that Mike Marshall has missed 24 games with various injuries, and, after Pedro Guerrero was walked three times Thursday night, he went after Marshall in the training room. Mickey Hatcher restrained Guerrero. Several other Dodgers have criticized Marshall's inability to play with injuries, although none had ever tried to put his lights out.Live Ball Stat of the Week
San Francisco's Chris Speier began this season with no grand slams and one two-homer game in 15 years in the majors. This year, he has two slams and two two-homer games. Quote of the Week
"That's something that would have to come from the horses' mouths, and I don't think either of them is going to be Mr. Ed." -- Yankees shortstop Wayne Tolleson on whether Shirley and Mattingly did wrestle.