The Boston Red Sox wonder if Bruce Hurst will be ready by opening day. He lost seven of his last eight decisions last season and ended up with an illness similar to mononucleosis. Now, he has suffered a relapse. Manager John McNamara said Hurst will be on a very limited schedule at the beginning of spring training.

There will be some nervous days this spring because the Red Sox are worried about Oil Can Boyd's shoulder problems . . .

The New York Yankees apparently pulled out of a trade for Baltimore pitcher Mike Boddicker because they believe he has elbow problems. The Orioles would have gotten pitchers Charlie Hudson and Pat Clements, infielder Bobby Meacham and outfielder Jay Buhner for Boddicker and second baseman Pete Stanicek.

Boddicker said his elbow is fine, but does admit to knee, back and other assorted miseries, one reason he has only one September-October victory the last three seasons. So the Yankees' search for pitching goes on. Their signing of John Candelaria is an indication of the difference between them and the Mets. The Mets wanted Candelaria as a part-time starter and a second left-hander in the bullpen. Right now, he's the Yankees' No. 3 starter -- behind Rick Rhoden and Richard Dotson . . .

The Mets are touting shortstop Kevin Elster as NL rookie of the year. He hit .310 with 74 RBI at Tidewater and is so slick defensively that coach Bud Harrelson said: "He'll be the best shortstop in Mets history." Until now, it was Harrelson. . .

Scandal in Japan: Seibu pitcher Osamu Higashio has been suspended six months on gambling charges. He was a 15-game winner and Pacific Division MVP last season. Dodgers Going for Broke

It's amazing what finishing 17 games out of first place will do to change a team's philosophy. A year ago, the Los Angeles Dodgers wouldn't even let free-agent Tim Raines into Dodger Stadium for a meeting. The price was too high.

This winter, no price has been too high. They've acquired six players and added $8.2 million to their payroll. Kirk Gibson will earn $4.5 million for three years and Mike Davis $1.975 million for two years. And on one-year deals are: Jesse Orosco ($1 million), Alfredo Griffin ($750,000), Jay Howell ($595,000) and Don Sutton ($350,000). When Gibson left the Detroit Tigers for the Dodgers, Las Vegas oddsmaker Jack Franzi changed the Tigers from 4-1 favorites to 5-1 and lowered the Dodgers from 18-1 to15-1 . . .

The price of winning: Kirby Puckett is seeking $1.35 million in arbitration, and if he gets it he'll be the sixth Twin over $1 million this season. The others: Kent Hrbek ($1.4 million), Frank Viola ($1.35 million), Tom Brunansky ($1.1 million), Bert Blyleven ($1 million) and Gary Gaetti ($1 million) . . . Others Already Broke

After a long and distinguished career, it appears that Graig Nettles will leave the game broke. He and his wife filed bankruptcy, listing debts of more than $1 million. He is 43 and has signed a minor league contract with the Richmond Braves. He hit .209 for the Atlanta Braves last season . . . After filing for bankruptcy last summer, Tony Gwynn asked the San Diego Padres to extend his contract. They refused, and at his current salary he is the best bargain in baseball. He's in the third year of a five-year deal that will pay him $840,000 this season and $940,000 next. And the club has a $1 million option for 1990. He made $740,000 -- $237,000 less than Scott McGregor -- for hitting .370 last season.

Add money: It's not just the players. Texas Rangers owner Eddie Chiles' Western Co. has filed bankruptcy with debts of $700 million. . .

One player the Dodgers no longer have is Candy Maldonado, and since he went to the San Francisco Giants in 1986 he's been one of the best players in any league, averaging an RBI every 4.9 at-bats. The only NL player above him is Mike Schmidt (one every 4.6 at-bats). The rest of the top five is Darryl Strawberry, Eric Davis and Andre Dawson . . .

The Oakland Athletics could have four former Dodgers in their rotation: Dave Stewart, Bob Welch, Rick Honeycutt and Matt Young. But the key to the A's season will be how well their kiddie corps everyday lineup does: catcher Terry Steinbach (25), shortstop Walt Weiss (24) and center fielder Stan Javier (22) . . .

The latest owner to make noise about wanting a new stadium is Tom Monaghan of the Tigers. He said the upkeep on Tiger Stadium ($2 million a year) might force him to the suburbs within five years . . . Seattle second baseman Harold Reynolds led the AL with 60 steals. He's the first Mariner to lead the AL in any offensive category . . .

When the Chicago Cubs traded Lee Smith to Boston for Al Nipper and Calvin Schiraldi, one of their reasons was they think Smith might age quickly. If you agree with this argument, you will note that he is only 30, but his innings have decreased in each of the last six seasons. Last season was the first he gave up more than a hit an inning . . .

Bill Gullickson's oldest daughter Cassie was born in Canada, second daughter Carly in the United States and wife Sandy is expecting this summer, when they will be living in Japan . . . Orioles first baseman Eddie Murray will wed Brenda Wilson in Los Angeles Friday.