Sluggers Jackson, Brett; handling hurlers
Unable to log his usual hours in the batting cage during spring training because of leg problems, Reggie Jackson was concerned about a possible early-season lack of power. He shouldn't have been. The California Angels' slugger, who hit 39 homers last year to share the American League lead with Milwaukee's Gorman Thomas, actually is several weeks ahead of his 1982 timetable. Only a week ago Reggie had a stretch of four home runs in as many days, including one estimated at close to 450 feet.
Pressed for an explanation, Jackson replied: ''All I can think of is that my inactivity with the bat in training camp unconsciously made me concentrate more at the plate once the regular season started. I also told myself to lay off the home-run swing for about 10 games, at least until I felt comfortable and had gotten a few base hits. Without realizing it, I guess I was able to turn something negative into something positive.''
Jackson, who once expressed a desire to be baseball's first black owner, is currently part of a group that wants to buy the financially troubled Indiana Pacers of the National Basketball Association and move the team to Anaheim. ''While I wouldn't want to run a pro basketball franchise myself, nor would I have the time, I really think I could help in the promotion department,'' Reggie told me. ''This would not be a tax write-off for me, because I'm not into losing propositions. If I didn't think we could have a winner in California and at least five or six thousand season ticket holders to start, I wouldn't be interested.''
Asked if he had a more immediate goal for himself, Jackson said: ''Well, I do have one. When you consider that Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams averaged only about 50 strikeouts a year, I figure the 156 I had last season are much too high for a guy like me. If I could cut 30 or 40 off that total, I'm sure I could hit over .300 every year and still produce my normal amount of home runs.''
California also has another hot batsmith right now in first baseman Rod Carew , who leads the American League in hits with 29, while batting a robust .453. On handling young pitchers
From manager Steve Boros of the Oakland A's on young pitchers: ''If there's any way I can take pressure off a kid pitcher, I'm going to do it. For example, we don't go over opposing lineups with our rookie pitchers before a game or tell them that they can only work one way against certain hitters. Our reasoning is that if a kid has good stuff and good control, he'll get the hitters out, no matter what their names are. I think by not filling a young pitcher's head with a lot of variables that get him nibbling at the corners when he should be rearing back and firing the ball, that you save him a lot of walks.''
Boros says the biggst surprise on his club so far this spring has been the rapid improvement of rookie left-hander Bill Krueger, who won his first two starts. Until four years ago, Krueger was a University of Portland first baseman who had convinced himself that his best chance to make it as a pro was in basketball. Brett displays power; streak ends
Although Kansas City's George Brett is known mostly as a slashing, line-drive hitter, that reputation may need revising in the aftermath of a three-home run game against Detroit. Actually it was the third time in his career that Brett had hit three balls out of the park in one game. It was a good sign that Brett was back on the beam, after finishing spring training with only two hits in 32 at-bats. . . After Bert Blyleven began the season by walking 11 batters in his first 15 1/3 innings, there was speculation that the Cleveland hurler's old shoulder problems were once again ruining his control. Last week, however, he put the brakes on that kind of talk by walking just one batter in a two-hitter against the Chicago White Sox.
Pete Rose's consecutive game streak ended at 635 last Sunday when Philadelphia Manager Pat Corrales sat Rose down in the second game of a doubleheader against the Houston Astros. It is Corrales's contention that an occasional break will make Pete more productive when he is in the lineup, a theory that Rose disputes.
Manager George Bamberger of the New York Mets is beginnning to take some heat for having overrated his team's pitching staff in spring training interviews. While Tom Seaver has been an early-season surprise on the mound, no other Met pitcher seems able to last for more than a few innings. In two recent games against the Phillies, Bamberger's pitchers walked 17 batters . . . Dave Mugar, who reportedly became a millionaire in the supermarket and cable TV business, is negotiating to buy 40 percent of the Boston Red Sox, including the shares owned by Buddy LeRoux. Even if Mugar is successful, Mrs. Tom Yawkey would still hold the controlling interest in the club . . . Outfielder Lee Lacy of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who stole 40 bases last year, is 11 for 11 this season.