Just moments after telling young prospects Todd Dun-woody and Kevin Millar last week that they were being sent down, a subdued Jim Leyland sat in his office at Space Coast Stadium in Viera, Fla., glumly recalling a spring 35 years ago when he was a young catcher invited to the Orioles' minor league training camp in Thomasville, Ga. While the Marlins manager acknowledged that he was never big league material, he still remembers vividly how manager Earl Weaver had watched him warm up pitchers for days and then walked up to Leyland and said, "Son, you need to go home and find another line of work."
"It's not a nice feeling to be told you're not good enough," Leyland said. "That's why I've always hated spring training, because it seems like you're always telling someone that they're traded or cut or some other bad news. It breaks their heart, and there's nothing you can say that gives them much consolation."
As spring training wrapped up last week, 30 big league managers finalized their rosters by delivering good news and bad news to scores of players both young and old. The following are among the most interesting eleventh-hour transactions.
Diamondbacks release righthander Hector Carrasco.
Throughout spring training it appeared that Carrasco was being groomed to be Arizona's closer. However, despite a 3-0 record and a 3.86 ERA in Cactus League play, Carrasco was cut on March 25. The knock on him: His 95-mph fastball is too flat, and he has yet to develop a second pitch. He doesn't have enough command of his slider to spot it for strikes early in the count, so he tends to fall behind. That, in turn, makes his predictable heater even more vulnerable.
Still, it's odd to see an expansion team cut a 28-year-old pitcher who throws 95 mph, and then hear the club's manager, Buck Showalter, explain by saying, "He got rostered out." Arizona has shown no reluctance to spend money, but the Diamondbacks did save more than $500,000 by releasing Carrasco before Opening Day. The closer job now falls to unproven Felix Rodriguez, a former catcher in the Dodgers chain, who has pitched only 56? major league innings and has never recorded a save.
White Sox sign Wil Cordero to one-year deal with option for '99.
The franchise that has treated us to wacky sideshows from Michael Jordan to Bo Jackson and George Bell to Albeit Belle vowed this winter that it was through with distractions. Apparently that promise was just a distraction, because on March 23 Chicago welcomed Cordero, who was arrested last June 11 for allegedly stinking his wife, Ana, and threatening to kill her, then pleaded guilty to four charges on Nov. 3, including assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. Now Cordero's ugly reputation precedes him everywhere he goes.
Despite the best season of his career—he hit .281 with 18 homers and 72 RBIs for Boston last year—the Red Sox released him on Sept. 28. In late February, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman expressed interest in signing Cordero, a move that generated such negative public reaction in New York that Cashman stopped pursuing the 26-year-old infielder-outfielder just days later. Cordero phoned new White Sox skipper Jerry Manuel, who had managed him at Double A Jacksonville in '90 and later coached him in Montreal. Manuel invited Cordero to the White Sox camp for a couple of days of evaluations, and then Chicago signed him to a $1 million deal that requires him to undergo weekly counseling.
Alas, Cordero has already become a distraction. On March 25 he was scheduled to report to camp in Tucson but didn't show up because his estranged wife had gone into labor with their second child, who was born with a minor deformity that required hand surgery, delaying Cordero's departure from Puerto Rico.