TORONTO -- When the Toronto Blue Jays made their annual northern migration from Florida's Grapefruit League, relievers Bill Caudill and Tom Henke appeared to be flying in opposite directions.
For Caudill, in the first year of a 5-year $8.4 million contract, the path was supposed to lead to super-stardom. As the designated savior of the bullpen, the then 28-year-old right-hander was targeted to lead Toronto out of the wilderness of expansion and toward the promised land of post-season play.
In return, Caudill, who notched 88 saves in three seasons with Seattle and Oakland, would finally receive recognition as one of baseball's premier relievers.
For Henke, the road was to end at Syracuse, the Blue Jays' Triple A International League affiliate. Henke was left wondering whether there would ever be a spot for him in a bullpen boasting names like Caudill, Gary Lave and Dennis Lamp, or whether any other team would be interested in an unproven 27-year-old reliever.
As the Blue Jays look for their first pennant in the franchise's 9-year history, Caudill and Henke still appear headed in opposite directions. But this time, the roles are reversed.
Caudill, who had 14 saves by Sept. 3, now is the Jays' mop-up man, appearing only in games when the outcome has already been decided.
Henke has become the Blue Jays' stopper. Since being called up July 28, he notched nine saves and three victories with a 1.14 ERA in 15 games. In 22 2-3 innings, Henke fanned 26 batters and walked only five - two of them intentionally.
His eight saves in August set a club record and were the most that month by any reliever in the major leagues.
'He's been just about perfect,' said Toronto manager Bobby Cox. 'Not only does he have control, the guy is a good competitor. Our bullpen has been our big advantage all season long and he's been an unbelievable addition to it.'
'Call him 'the Canada Goose',' said teammate Rance Mulliniks, referring to Henke's new nickname. 'He's our answer to Goose Gossage.'
Like Gossage, Henke's chief weapon is a fastball that averages between 92 and 94 miles per hour, and has been clocked at up to 97 mph. Occasionally, against right-handed power hitters, he'll drop down and throw sidearm or even submarine.
'I lose a little velocity on it,' said Henke. 'But it has a little more movement -- moves like a snake.'
Add to that a slider in the high eighties and split-fingered changeup that travels at 81 mph and sinks like a stone, and it's easy to see why Henke has been as dominant in the majors as he was in the International League, where he was voted the most valuable pitcher.
But if success has finally found Tom Henke, it hasn't come quickly or easily.
He grew up in Taos, Missouri, a town small enough (population 700) that the locals still go to the corner store to check on their native son, but too small to attract any major league scouts. As a result, Henke wasn't offered any athletic scholarships. Following his high school graduation, he began an apprenticeship as a bricklayer.
A couple of years later, friends dragged Henke off to a pro tryout camp where it was suggested that he attend junior college. He took the advice and completed a degree in building construction from East Central Junior College.
In 1980, Henke signed his first professional contract with the Texas Rangers and by the end of the 1982 season had worked his way up to the parent team. But, despite a 1-0 record and a 1.15 ERA in eight games, he was assigned to Oklahoma City (Double A) in 1983. He was recalled at the end of that season, and began 1984 with the Rangers. A 6.35 ERA in 25 games soon saw him winging his way back to Oklahoma City.
'They may say they treated me OK,' said Henke, who maintains he is not bitter, 'but I don't think they did. They wanted me as a short man, but they never put me in that situation.
'Texas, even in Oklahoma City, they kept shifting me around. Sometimes they'd pitch me for an inning, sometimes for three or four innings. Sometimes they'd just sit me down for five or six days at as time.'
When the January, 1985 compensation pool rolled around, the Rangers left Henke unprotected. The Blue Jays, who had lost Cliff Johnson to free agency, swept him up.
Caudill, who at first attributed his season-long struggle to a flaw in his pitching motion, but who now chalks it up to a lack of arm strength, has shown little resentment to being replaced as the big man in the Toronto bullpen.
'I respect Bobby (Cox),' he said. 'When he calls on me, I will do my best. If I pitch well, I will get my chances to help this team get to the playoffs. Bobby knows how to play the percentages, and right now the percentages aren't with me.
'Needless to say if I was manager, I'd pitch me every day.'
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