Oil Can could pitch for White Sox

The Associated Press

NEW YORK Baseball has found its first big-name strikebreaker.

Oil Can Boyd, eager to prove he can still pitch at age 35, has agreed to join the Chicago White Sox and play despite the strike.

''Yes, it was a difficult decision,'' Boyd said Tuesday from his home in Winter Haven, Fla.

''I felt that I didn't want to cross the picket line. I've been through a couple of strikes and I know what those are about. But I wanted another chance to play ball, and if this is what it takes, then I'm going to do it.''

Plus, there's the promise of a nice paycheck. If he signs before Jan. 20, Boyd and the White Sox can make any deal they want. After that date, his contract will be between $115,000 and $275,000.

Boyd, 78-77 with a 4.04 ERA in a flamboyant, 10-year career with Boston, Montreal and Texas, has not pitched in the majors since 1991. The right-hander played last year in the independent, Class A Northern League with the Sioux City Explorers, and was 4-1 with a 1.89 ERA before his season was cut short by a blood clot in his right shoulder.

Boyd, bothered by a similar blood clot in 1988 while with Boston, underwent surgery to correct the problem. He's been throwing since then and says he has recovered.

''I've been to Cucamonga and back to get back to the majors,'' said Boyd, who has pitched in Mexico and Puerto Rico since he last played in the big leagues.

''I hope people don't look at this like I'm acting in a selfish way. The White Sox were the first team that said I could have a chance. They said that if I don't make the team now, I can go to Triple-A and have a chance to make it back, even after the strike is settled.''

Chicago made an oral commitment earlier this week to purchase the popular pitcher's contract from the Sioux City Explorers, scouting director Andrew Wheeler said.

The White Sox, however, will not confirm or deny the move. Like other major league teams, Chicago is scrambling to find potential strikebreakers but is reluctant to discuss them.

''I'd really rather not talk about replacement players,'' White Sox general manager Ron Schueler said Tuesday.

''You saw what happened with Leon Durham. There was talk that he may play, then he got pressured not to play,'' he said. ''So I'd really hate to talk about who might play and who might not.''

Besides Boyd, Denis Boucher is the only other former major leaguer who has said he would play during the strike. Boucher, who pitched briefly for Montreal last season, signed a Triple-A contract with the Expos Monday. No big leaguers on strike have said they will break ranks.

George Kalafatis, who has represented Boyd, said he was resigning as his agent.

''I'm preparing a letter notifying him of the fact that I can no longer represent his interests pursuant to the rules adopted by the players' association,'' Kalafatis said.

''If you know Dennis, Dennis is going to make up his own mind,'' he said. ''He listened to me in the past, he's occasionally taken my advice, he's occasionally not taken my advice. This he's done on his own.''

The players' union has threatened agents with penalties up to decertification if any of their clients become strikebreakers.

''Given my relationship with him, I'm saddened by it,'' Gene Orza, the union's No. 2 man, said of Boyd's decision. ''I haven't had a chance to talk with him yet. But then again, he hasn't played since 1991.''

Boyd was a combined 8-15 with a 4.59 ERA for Montreal and Texas in his last season in the majors.

''I'm behind the players' association 100 percent. They helped me,'' Boyd said. ''I can feel for what both sides are going through in this strike, although I was never in one this bitter. But I've been out of the game for three years, and I want to play baseball.''

Boyd said he was not worried about what might happen once the strike is settled. Some major leaguers have said strikebreakers will face reprisals, such as beanballs and brawls.

''It's not going to be ugly for me, I think,'' Boyd said. ''A lot of those guys in the majors now haven't been there as long as I was. They know I'm a ballplayer, too.''

Boyd pitched for Boston from 1982-89. His best season was 1986, when he went 16-10 for the AL champion Red Sox. He was set to start Game 7 of the World Series, but a rainout led manager John McNamara to bump Boyd and instead pitch Bruce Hurst. Boyd was upset by the decision and cried when he learned of it.

Boyd rarely hid his emotions. He pumped his fist on the mound and talked to himself, ran to the dugout and fired up his teammates and angered opposing teams.

''I've always been my own person,'' he said.

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