MIAMI, FEB. 20 -- It appears Steve Kemp will be a left-handed pinch hitter for the Texas Rangers this season, and, if he is, it'll be one of baseball's more remarkable comebacks. Once, he was one of the game's most consistent performers, averaging 20 homers and 94 RBI in his first five full seasons.

His last big season was 1982, when he hit 19 homers and drove in 98 runs for the Chicago White Sox. After that season, he became a free agent and signed with the New York Yankees.

He never adjusted to the bright lights and hit just .241 in 1983. Worse, he was hit in the face by a line drive during batting practice that September and suffered blurred vision for a year or more. He has not been the same since. He was traded to Pittsburgh in 1984, then released. The Pirates paid him $1.6 million last year while he played for the Rangers' Class AAA team at Oklahoma City.

He'll be earning about $1.4 million less this year, but, at 33, his career appears reborn.

He played only 125 minor league games before the Detroit Tigers first brought him to the majors in 1977. He has played 169 minor league games the last two years.

His value to the Rangers increased this week when designated hitter Larry Parrish underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. Parrish already wears a heavy brace on his left knee. Strange Case of Arbitration

Do you wonder why the owners hate arbitration? As the weekend began, they'd won 10 of 15 decisions, but it's an unpredictable situation. Three of the players' victories were decided by arbitrator John Simpkins, who is handling baseball cases for the first time.

He awarded Kansas City pitcher Mark Gubicza, an 18-game loser, a 41-percent raise. Gubicza made $450,000 last year, and the Royals had offered $525,000 -- a 17-percent raise. He asked for and got $635,000, and the Royals were furious.

"Let's just hope that now he wins 18 games," General Manager John Schuerholz said.

Gubicza's strongest evidence was that the Royals averaged 1.4 runs per game in his 18 losses. His 3.98 ERA was respectable, but the Royals thought a 17-percent raise for a 13-18 season was more than fair.

The Royals have lost five straight arbitration cases, having not won since 1982, when they beat Dan Quisenberry and Jamie Quirk.

They also gave up on trying to sign catcher Carlton Fisk this week. He has a one-year, $750,000 contract with the Chicago White Sox, but after being declared a Collusion I free agent has until March 1 to negotiate a better deal with any of the other 25 teams. The Royals offered $800,000, but he wanted $1.2 million. So the Royals re-signed Steve Balboni to be a right-handed designated hitter. Billy Thinks Casey

Billy Martin says he spent a lot of time this winter thinking about how Casey Stengel used to manage the New York Yankees, the teams that Martin played on and that won five World Series in the 1950s. So at Thursday's first meeting, he gave the new Yankees a long list of dos and don'ts. Some aren't surprising. Beards are forbidden, and blazers and dress shirts must be worn on the road. Everyone in uniform must wear black shoes with black shoe laces. He said the Yankees will spend hours on fundamental drills this spring.

"We're going to be like the Yankees I was on," he said. "Once you have that basic foundation, everything else takes care of itself" . . .

With the addition of George Frazier this week, the Houston Astros have six right-handed pitchers competing for one spot. That has increased speculation that Charlie Kerfeld or Manny Hernandez will be traded to Milwaukee for catcher Bill Schroeder . . .

Detroit Tigers owner Tom Monaghan jumped all over departed outfielder Kirk Gibson in his Domino's newsletter this month. "I didn't like his grooming and thought he was a disgrace to the Tigers uniform," Monaghan wrote. "His best talents -- hitting home runs against right-handed pitching and stealing bases -- were not worth $1.5 million a year. He has one of the weaker arms in baseball for an outfielder. He was a real liability."

Gibson responded: "If it bothered him so much, he should have told me." . . .

The St. Louis Cardinals have sold 18,000 season tickets. That's 4,000 more than last year, when they drew better than three million fans to Busch Stadium . . .

The city of Orlando wants to expand the Citrus Bowl, but, to do so, it would have to chop about 20 feet off the right field foul line at Tinker Field, the spring home of the Minnesota Twins. City officials rationalized it by telling the Twins that a giant Baggy similar to the one in the Metrodome could be constructed. The Twins aren't buying it and have begun negotiations to move to Fort Myers when their lease expires in 1990 . . .

The Twins are bringing in Jerry White to work with Greg Gagne on base stealing this spring. Lou Brock and others have tutored Gagne in the past, but in three seasons, he has 28 steals . . .

Former big leaguer Ron LeFlore was among 132 students at the Joe Brinkman umpire school in Cocoa, Fla., but wasn't among the 19 given jobs in the rookie league. He has been handling baggage at Eastern Airlines, and Brinkman didn't offer much encouragement.

"He's got a ways to go," Brinkman said. "It's hard for him. His age {39} is a factor. He's a lot older than most of the guys here, and he doesn't have any experience. He seems to have a big problem with handling the transition from player to umpire."

Brinkman also had five Koreans who are scheduled to work the Olympic Games in Seoul . . .

Boston pitcher Rob Woodward reported 20 pounds lighter after being diagnosed as having diabetes. He was scheduled to be the Red Sox' fifth starter, but will have to train at a slower pace. Bruce Hurst, suffering from a relapse of a disease similar to mononucleosis, will also will be brought along slowly . . .

No false pride here: The Cleveland Indians are celebrating their 101 losses last season with a highlight film of only 10 minutes . . . By one estimate, 20 scouts have left the New York Yankees since the 1984 season . . . In his first four seasons, Lou Gehrig hit .337 with 169 homers and 492 RBI. In Don Mattingly's first four seasons, he has hit .339 with 183 homers and 483 RBI.