For most veteran players, spring training means long days of boring drills in the hot sun. Jesse Barfield, though, couldn't be happier to be here.
After spending much of 1991 and 1992 on the New York Yankees' disabled list and last season in Japan, Barfield is back, hoping to win a job in the Houston outfield.
Barfield, 34, looks to be in excellent shape. He is recovered from surgery to repair the injured left wrist that bothered him for much of 1992 and reported early to the Astros' camp to make the best of his opportunity.
"When I'm healthy I'm productive," he said. "And I feel good about my chances."
General manager Bob Watson said he would be disappointed if the 34-year-old is not the Astros' Opening Day rightfielder. Barfield would be, too.
"It's not even in the back of my mind not to be," Barfield said. "I've heard people say it's my job to lose. I tell everyone it's my job to keep. I don't want to sound cocky, but I'm very confident in my abilities."
In the 1980s, Barfield was considered one of baseball's top sluggers. Teamed with George Bell and Lloyd Moseby in Toronto's talented outfield, Barfield averaged 25 home runs a season from 1982 to 1988. He led the league with 40 homers in 1986.
After being traded to the Yankees in 1989 (for Al Leiter), he had just one injury-free season. After he injured his wrist, doctors told him he would never be able to swing a bat, but surgery in September 1992 and extensive rehabilitation corrected the problem.
He signed with the Yomiuri Giants and, after starting slow as he built up strength in the wrist, finished with a .215 average, 26 home runs and 53 RBI in 344 at-bats.
Barfield said he was pleased with what he did, and Watson apparently also was impressed. "We're not looking for him to hit .270. Thirty homers, .220-.225. If he drives the ball, he's a threat," Watson said. "And we're looking for him to be the outfield leader this club so sorely needs."
Barfield said he has modest goals. "I was on a talk show in Houston and I heard there were 50 guys on the board in Vegas for comeback player of the year," he said. "I'm not saying that's my goal, but it would be nice."
Expanding views: Owners begin their spring quarterly meeting Monday in Arizona, and preparation for upcoming labor negotiations is expected to dominate the conversation. There could be some talk about expansion, since it figures to come up during the collective bargaining process. It is possible the owners could announce an expansion committee to study the issue. Leonard S. Coleman, baseball's marketing development director, is expected to be elected NL president, replacing Bill White.
Four-play: Barry Bonds has just a few things in mind for 1994 _ an unprecedented fourth Most Valuable Player Award and a 40-stolen base/40-home run performance. "Every year I try to keep up the same pace, and every year I end up doing something better than the year before," Bonds said. "But I'm starting to dig a hole for myself. You can't do that forever. I've got to find something to (upset me), or fire me up, and then I can do better."
Red Schotts: Reds owner Marge Schott apparently didn't think too much of her team last season. In an interview with WLW radio reprinted in the Cincinnati Post , Schott termed the team's 1993 play "disgusting." Of manager Davey Johnson, she said: "I wasn't here last year. What else do you want to ask me? Let's see if he wins." Of GM Jim Bowden, she said: "He's young. We all make mistakes. Jim was raised like I was. He has strong parents. He thinks like a businessman." And on this coming season, she said: "The attitude is different this year. You're beginning to see (Rob) Dibble with a different attitude. (Jose) Rijo has always had a great attitude. The players are saying they were wrong last year."
Holy birthday: Tigers manager Sparky Anderson received a most unique gift for his 60th birthday in Lakeland last week _ a baseball autographed by Pope John Paul II. The gift was arranged with the help of an Orlando-area bishop on a trip to the Vatican last year. "From what I'm told," Anderson said, "it's the only time he's ever done something like this. I'm stunned."
He said it: Pirates coach Rich Donnelly, after hearing that pitcher Bob Walk, who completed only 16 of his 259 major-league starts, would be joining the Pittsburgh broadcast team: "Maybe now he can get a complete game."
Miscellany: Atlanta minor-league sensation Chipper Jones added 15 pounds of muscle and has a shot to win the leftfield job. 3B Terry Pendleton showed up 25 pounds lighter than last year. Just-retired Dale Murphy will be a spring training instructor with the Cardinals. Dallas Green is running a tough Mets camp _ when rookie Butch Huskey reported overweight, he was not allowed to practice in his uniform and had to practice by himself. Jimmie Reese, 92, a one-time roommate of Babe Ruth, is back in uniform with the Angels as a special coach.
_ Information from other news organizations was used in this report.
Take a shot
Michael Jordan, who is expected to play in the Chicago White Sox's exhibition opener Friday, is not the first player trying the basketball-baseball doubleheader. There have been nine others who played in the NBA and the majors.
Player (MLB years) Pos. AB Avg. NBA years Pos PPG
Dick Groat (1952-67) SS 7,484 .286 1952-53 G 11.9
Danny Ainge (1979-81) 2B 665 .220 1981-94 G 12.0
Cotton Nash (1967-70) 1B 16 .188 1964-65 F 3.0
Pitcher (MLB years) IP ERA NBA years Pos PPG
Gene Conley (1952-63) 1,588 3.82 1952-64+ C 5.9
Ron Reed (1966-1984) 2,477 3.46 1965-67 F 8.0
Steve Hamilton (1961-72) 663 3.05 1958-60 F 4.5
Dick Ricketts (1959) 55 5.82 1955-58 G 9.3
Dave DeBusschere (1962-63) 102 2.90 1962-74 F 16.1
(+ didn't play in NBA from 1953-58)
SOURCE: Rocky Mountain News/Times research