Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Kevin Hickey wants to make the most of his recent return to the major leagues. Perhaps he wants to too much.
"I'm putting way too much pressure on myself," Hickey said yesterday. "Maybe I ought to go to Saudi Arabia and see what real pressure is. That's pressure. This game is supposed to be fun."
Hickey hasn't had much fun since his season began to unravel in late May. He seemed to lose the ability to get left-handers out and eventually was optioned to the Class AAA Rochester Red Wings. Now he's back, but he has yet to show that he is better for the minor-league experience.
Things did not get any better last night. He entered the game in relief of Pete Harnisch and walked the only two batters he faced to load the bases in the seventh inning before giving way to right-hander Bob Milacki.
"I just seem to tighten up when I get out there," he said. "I throw my slider in the bullpen and people tell me it should get anybody out. Then I get out there and I worry too much about what people will think if I give up a few hits. I have to realize that my giving up a hit here and there is not a life-threatening situation."
Manager Frank Robinson doesn't know if that's the reason Hickey hasn't been very effective, but he does know that there has been a drop in the velocity of his fastball from 1989 to this year.
"If he thinks that's the reason, the answer is to relax and let the ball go," Robinson said. "The worst thing that can happen is you'll get hit, which is the same thing that's going to happen if you don't relax."
Hickey is coming off a discouraging performance on Wednesday night, when he gave up a game-breaking grand slam to Seattle Mariners second baseman Harold Reynolds. He has made two appearances since returning from Rochester, giving up four runs on three hits and two walks in two innings.
Still, Robinson said that Hickey's performance in September will not determine whether he gets a chance to compete for a job next spring.
"I want everyone here to know that what they do or don't do the rest of the season isn't going to make or break them," Robinson said.
*Right-hander Mark Williamson visited hand specialist Dr. Hugh Baugher to have his fractured right hand re-evaluated yesterday.
X-rays showed that the break is healing normally, but it will be another three weeks before Williamson is able to begin rehabilitating. The hand remains immobilized, but the size of the splint was reduced so that Williamson could begin flexing his wrist.
"I probably won't start throwing until November," he said.
*Right-hander Dorn Taylor, the player to be named in the deal that sent Jay Tibbs to the Pittsburgh Pirates earlier this summer, made his Orioles debut in the ninth inning. He pitched a scoreless inning, giving up one hit and striking out one.
*Orioles officials have confirmed that left-hander Brian DuBois will undergo a "Tommy John" tendon transplant to reconstruct his elbow. It is the same surgery from which Jose Mesa appears to be making a successful comeback.
"I think it was a success," Mesa said. "I still can throw pretty hard and my control is better."
Dr. Charles Silberstein can't guarantee improved control (unless maybe he transplants the tendon directly from Tommy John), but doctors are having more and more success with the procedure.
*Ron Kittle was in the starting lineup for the first time in a week. Kittle has started just 12 games since he was acquired on July 30, but his limited role was partly the result of a persistent groin strain.
The Orioles figure to play Sam Horn more often for two reasons. First, Horn bats left-handed, so he normally would get more work in a platoon situation. Second, Kittle has a lengthy track record, so the team would rather take a longer look at Horn before determining which direction to go next year.
*The Orioles public-relations department has determined that reliever Gregg Olson is the youngest pitcher in major-league history to get 30 saves in a season. Olson is 23 years, 11 months old. Bruce Sutter was the youngest previously, at 24 years, eight months.
*Rochester third baseman Leo Gomez and Orioles rookie Anthony Telford has been named the organization's Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year, respectively. The winners are chosen by the Orioles player-development staff.