Toronto Blue Jay left fielder Rickey Henderson still struts the moment he steps on the field, wears his dark shades even at night and talks as good a game as ever.
Yet, this certainly isn't the same Rickey Henderson the Blue Jays envisioned when they acquired him July 31 for the pennant stretch. They now are openly wondering if he'll ever emerge.
"I think we've all been a little surprised," right fielder Joe Carter said, "because this is usually the time Rickey turns it on. It just hasn't happened yet. But we're ready for him. People call him a hotdog, but we've got all the mustard he wants."
Henderson, who was acquired from the Oakland Athletics for highly touted prospect Steve Karsay, has struggled since joining the Blue Jays. He batted .215 in 44 regular-season games with the Blue Jays, and although he usually excels in postseason play, he hit a team-low .120 during the American League playoffs.
His output has left Blue Jay General Manager Pat Gillick openly frustrated, wishing now he never made the trade in the first place and privately saying that the Blue Jays have no intention of retaining Henderson when he files for free agency.
"In hindsight, I wouldn't have made that deal," Gillick said. "What we wanted was a pitcher, someone to put us over the top, but we couldn't get one. We needed somebody, and consequently we thought Rickey would do the job. It just hasn't happened."
Henderson, who has a .412 batting average in eight World Series games, refuses to worry about the criticism. He's ready for center stage and promises he'll be back to his old self.
"I don't care what people are saying," Henderson said. "(Gillick) made the trade, so he can say what he wants. I don't want to get involved in any of that. I know what I can do, and everyone will see me doing it."
Juan Guzman, who was 2-0 with a 2.08 earned-run average in his two starts during the playoffs, said he has been told that he will start Saturday in Game 1 of the World Series.
Blue Jay Manager Cito Gaston is expected to use Dave Stewart (2-0, 2.03 ERA) in Game 2 on Sunday, followed by Pat Hentgen (0-1, 18.00) in Game 3. It's likely that Todd Stottlemyre (0-1, 7.50) will be dropped from the rotation, but Gaston has not publicly announced his decision.
The Blue Jays still are shaking their heads in disbelief at the composure of Stewart as he extended his playoff record to 8-0 with a 2.03 ERA.
"The man doesn't have a nerve in his body," Blue Jay third baseman Ed Sprague said. "Before the game, he was sitting at his locker, just taking a nap. It was like a midseason game to him."
Said Paul Molitor: "Dave Stewart will tell you that he isn't quite the pitcher he was a few years ago. But as far as concentration, focus and desire to win, he's as good as anybody I've played with or against."
The Blue Jays, not wanting to lose Molitor during the three games in Philadelphia when the designated hitter is not used, are considering playing him at third base for those games.
Molitor, who batted .391 with five RBIs during the playoffs, has not played third base since the 1991 All-Star game, but has been preparing himself for the possibility by taking ground balls each day.
"It would definitely be a challenge," Molitor said, "but I'm not sure it would be right to take Ed Sprague out of there, either."
Said Sprague: "My feeling is that Paul has to play, no matter where you put him."
George Brett, who has announced his retirement, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch in Game 1 of the World Series. The Blue Jays also have invited Nolan Ryan and Carlton Fisk to throw out ceremonial first pitches in latter games of the Series and are awaiting their response.