These are not exactly boom times for major league baseball players with Utah ties.
Within recent memory, Dale Murphy was the National League's MVP with Atlanta, Bruce Hurst was a World Series hero in Boston, Cory Snyder was a promising rookie in Cleveland and Kelly Downs was considered to have Cy Young potential in San Francisco.Nowadays, only Downs is still with his original team, and he, along with the others, is settling for more modest goals. Here's a look at where the 11 players with Utah ties are today, and their prospects for the '91 season:
Rick Aguilera: He wasn't that excited when it was first proposed that he go to the bullpen, but the former BYU hurler had a stellar season last year, finishing with 32 saves, a 5-3 record and 2.76 ERA. He tired some at the end of last season, but should get some help now from Steve Bedrosian.
Kelly Downs: The original hard-luck guy, Downs, a Bountiful native, was 3-2 with a 3.43 ERA last season before undergoing rotator-cuff surgery. He's apparently recovered from that now, but has gone on the 15-day disabled list again with an inflamed toe.
Jim Gott: The Provo resident was supposed to be completely healthy again as spring training started, and ready to challenge Jay Howell for the Dodgers' closer job. He had three saves last season while pitching mostly middle relief, and has two saves already this spring, with a 3.72 ERA.
Bruce Hurst: The St. George native started slowly last season but finished strong, compiling a 6-1 record and 1.51 ERA in his final 13 starts. For the year, he was 11-9, 3.14. Still considered to be the Padres' No. 1 pitcher, Hurst is 2-1 with a 3.68 ERA this spring.
Wally Joyner: The one-time BYU phenom is expected to bat fifth in an Angel lineup that has suddenly become more powerful. Like most of his teammates, Joyner has hit well this spring - the Angels are batting over .300 as a team this spring. While playing only half of last season because of an injury, Joyner hit .268 with eight homers and 41 RBIs.
Vance Law: Back from a one-year foray into Japanese baseball, former Cougar and Provo resident Law is amazed at the good fortune that landed him a job with the Oakland A's. Law entered spring training knowing he'd be in competition with Ernest Riles for the starting third-base job with Oakland, a job that became open when Carney Lansford suffered a knee injury that will put him out for the season.
So far this spring, Law has hit .308 in 20 games, with a substantial 14 RBIs.
"I can't fill Carney's shoes," he said, "but I can do the best I can to make third base a solid position and not a question mark. Carney has been a leader, a guy you could count on to be there day in and day out. I consider myself to be the same type of player."
Mike Morgan: The off-season Ogden resident has started well the past couple of seasons but tends to fade. He was battling for the fifth starting spot with Mike Hartley, but his name keeps cropping up in trade rumors. During the exhibition season he has a 1-1 record and 2.50 ERA in three starts.
Jack Morris: The 35-year-old workhorse went from one bad team (the Tigers) to another (the Twins), but he still figures to be the ace of the staff, despite a 15-18 record and 4.51 ERA last year. Morris' fastball has slowed somewhat since his days at BYU, but he still throws the superb forkball and he's death on righthanded batters.
Dale Murphy: After two and a half unexplainably bad years in Atlanta, Murphy was traded to Philadelphia midway through last season and responded by picking his game up a notch. He hit .266 in 57 games for the Phillies, and finished the season with 24 homers and 83 RBIs. He's still on a bad team, but the change of scenery seemed to do him good.
"Just getting into new surroundings I think kind of shakes you up, kind of wakes you up a little bit," he said.
And he still thinks he can return to his old form.
"I think I can turn my game around," he said. "I feel healthy, keep myself in decent shape. I don't have any excuses. I've been a little frustrated the last few years because I think I can do better."
This spring, Murphy has hit .296 with one homer and 13 RBI in 21 games.
Adam Peterson: He made 11 starts for the White Sox last year, compiling a 2-5, 4.55 ERA, and was traded recently to San Diego. With three days to go and eight players to cut before the season-opener, he's still with the Padres. This spring, Peterson has no record but a 2.89 ERA in nine-plus innings pitched.
Cory Snyder: The 28-year-old former BYU star with the rifle arm feels like a saved man after escaping the baseball doldrums in Cleveland via a trade to Chicago. Snyder established career lows in homers and RBIs last season, and said he took some heat from Cleveland manager John McNamara and hitting coach Jose Morales when he tried to follow the advice of Walt Hriniak, the Chicago hitting instructor who has tutored such players as Wade Boggs and Dwight Evans. Now that he is free to follow Hriniak's advice, Snyder feels he can cut down the strikeouts that have plagued him the past couple of seasons. "I like it here," he said. "It's a good chance. I'm still young enough to start all over again." He's had a productive spring, leading the team in RBIs with 12.
White Sox manager Jeff Torborg said he planned to use Snyder both in the outfield and at designated hitter against lefties, and Snyder said that is fine with him. "I don't totally know my role but I hope to win a starting job," he said.