Fleet outfielders haven't burned up basepaths

Orioles notebook

September 13, 1990|By Ken Rosenthal | Ken Rosenthal,Evening Sun Staff

When the Orioles began stockpiling young outfielders before the 1989 season, the speed of those players was expected to compensate for their lack of power. The idea held promise last year, but like so much else this season, it has proven a bust.

Not only are the outfield track stars on pace to hit the feweshome runs by an Orioles outfield since 1961, their failure to get on base is the principal reason the club ranks 10th in the American League with 83 stolen bases.

The situation is unacceptable, and the Orioles likely will try tbalance their outfield this winter by acquiring a power hitter. Steve Finley, Brady Anderson and Mike Devereaux have started together five times in the last seven games. At least one figures to be traded.

The Orioles last year finished sixth in the AL with 118 stolebases, including 89 by the outfielders -- nearly double the total of 1988 and second only to Kansas City in the AL. Finley, Anderson and Devereaux combined for 55 of those. This year their combined total is 43.

"You can't run if you don't get on base," manager FranRobinson said before last night's 2-1 victory over Detroit. "I'll run until the sixth inning, I don't care if we're down five or six runs. But you've got to get on base. And you've got to do it consistently."

Finley had two of the Orioles' five hits last night, Anderson wen0-for-3 and Devereaux did not play. Anderson reached on an error in the fourth and stole second and third with one out, but naturally he didn't score. Two innings later he popped up a bunt and Finley was doubled off first.

Young hitters often lack plate discipline, but Finley, Andersoand Devereaux have combined for just 76 walks -- 22 fewer than major-league leader Mickey Tettleton. None has an on-base percentage higher than .340. Rickey Henderson leads the majors at .438. Devereaux is at .299.

Hence, the decline in stolen bases. Finley has increased from 1to 20, but Devereaux has dropped from 22 to 13 and Anderson from 16 to 10. Injuries are a factor -- Devereaux missed nearly a month with a pulled hamstring, Anderson nearly six weeks with a sprained left ankle -- but not the only explanation.

Again, it would be a different story if those players hit home run(and, by extension, drove in runs). But the Orioles' outfield, including the trade of Phil Bradley, has combined to hit just 31 homers, including 11 by Joe Orsulak. Last year's group finished with 36. The '61 outfield had 29.

Power or speed, take your pick.

Just don't leave out both.

* LINEUP SHUFFLE: Robinson started playing his youn outfielders together last week, but it turns out his decision was made easier after Orsulak injured his back. It was hoped Orsulak would return last night, but he was a late scratch. His replacement, Jeff McKnight, was a hero.

McKnight spoiled Jack Morris' shutout bid by leading off theighth with his first career homer. Bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks retrieved the ball from the Tigers' bullpen. McKnight struck out in his first two at-bats, and had been in a 1-for-20 slump since rejoining the club Sept. 1.

Orsulak has started only one of the past seven games, but iavailable to pinch-hit. Robinson said his injury would not be serious enough to merit consideration for the disabled list if rosters were at their normal size. Orsulak could return this weekend.

* DEPARTMENT OF DENIALS: ESPN's Peter Gammons is bacwriting his Sunday notes column for the Boston Globe, and this week he reported that Orioles farm director Doug Melvin has contacted Atlanta about its vacant general manager's position.

"Altogether false," Melvin said. "I had to talk to Roland [Hemond]tell him there's no truth to it. My wife called me from Connecticut the other day. She said, 'What's this about you looking for a new job?' I told her, 'I'm not looking for a new job.'"

Gammons, discussing the cost controls implemented by variouclubs, wrote, "In Baltimore, the belt-tightening is so severe that player personnel director Doug Melvin is looking around for a new job. Melvin called about the Braves' general manager's job. What will happen in Atlanta is still up in the air."

* INJURY REPORT: First baseman Randy Milligan said he ihoping to be available by the start of next week, but his separated left shoulder is still a "little sore" when he's swinging, especially on inside pitches that require quick reactions.

Milligan said he expects to take batting practice with the team iToronto. He continues to lead the Orioles with 20 homers, and the club has hit only 17 in 34 games since he was injured on Aug. 7. Thirteen of those were solo.

The loss of Mark Williamson has had a similar impact on thOrioles' bullpen, which has a 5.51 ERA since he suffered a fractured ring finger in his pitching hand on Aug. 18. The relievers had a 2.98 ERA prior to Williamson's season-ending injury.

* GOING, GOING, GONE: Once Rochester's season endsRobinson said the chances of righthander Bob Milacki making another start are "slim and none" -- unless Toronto is still in contention for the final series of the year at Memorial Stadium.

If that's the case, Robinson would start his best availablpitchers to ensure the pennant is decided under the proper set of circumstances. Milacki has made two relief appearances since coming off the disabled list Sept. 1. Robinson has chosen to look at younger pitchers as starters.

* AROUND THE HORN: Cal Ripken started the season 1-for-1with the bases loaded but since then is 5-for-8, including his game-winning single last night. Ripken was in a 5-for-41 slump entering that at-bat. He is 23-for-73 (.315) lifetime off Morris.

One other note on Ripken's hit: It broke the Orioles' 0-for-2slump with runners in scoring position. The Tigers had allowed only one run in 36 innings before McKnight's homer. The Orioles batted .189 in the series.

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