Up and down with the Orioles

October 05, 1990|By Peter Schmuck

Highlight: Shortstop Cal Ripken set a major-league record for consecutive errorless games by a shortstop with 95. He also set a major-league record for fewest errors by a shortstop in a single season with three, passed Everett Scott to move into second place behind Lou Gehrig on baseball's all-time list for consecutive games played and had his ninth straight 20-homer season.

Lowlight: Ripken struggled at the plate through the first two months of the season, failing repeatedly in clutch situations and lighting up the talk-show switchboards with suggestions that the consecutive-games streak was somehow to blame.

Highlight: Right-hander Dave Johnson, who was no lock to make the club when spring training began, emerged as the most dependable starter in the rotation and went on to win more games than any other Orioles pitcher.

Lowlight: Left-hander Jeff Ballard came back from an 18-victory season and two elbow operations to lose nine of 10 decisions and his place in the starting rotation.

Highlight: Reliever Gregg Olson ran up a string of 41 scoreless innings from July 31, 1989, to May 7, finally surrendering a run to the California Angels. Olson did not blow a save opportunity until June 8, his 15th save situation of the season.

Lowlight: No. 1 draft choice Ben McDonald arrived at spring training with a chance to be in the starting rotation on Opening Day, but a strained lateral oblique muscle forced him onto the disabled list and back to the Class AAA Rochester Red Wings, where a series of finger blisters kept him there until early July.

Highlight: First baseman Randy Milligan, who spent eight seasons in the minor leagues before getting a chance to play in 1989, emerged in 1990 as the Orioles' most consistent run producer in the first half of the season. He hit his 20th home run on July 22 and remained the team leader for nearly the remainder of the season, even though he was sidelined from Aug. 7 until the last week of the season.

Lowlight: Milligan slammed into Oakland Athletics catcher Ro Hassey in an Aug. 7 game at the Oakland Coliseum and separated his left shoulder. Though the injury was not thought to be serious at the time, Milligan was lost for almost the rest of the season.

Highlight: McDonald finally returned to the majors in July and entered the starting rotation July 21. He won his first five starts and went on to be the most effective pitcher on the staff in the second half, which did nothing to dampen expectations for his first full season in the rotation in 1991.

Lowlight: The club gave up on pitcher Jay Tibbs after a 2-7 start and designated him for assignment, even though he had come back months early from a rotator-cuff operation. He eventually was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates for minor-league pitcher Dorn Taylor.

Highlight: The Orioles went 19-10 from July 4 through Aug. 3 to claw back to .500. Cal Ripken had 21 RBI in the final two weeks of that span to reassume his leadership role at the plate.

Lowlight: The Orioles suffered a ravaging string of August injuries that sent the club reeling toward the bottom of the American League East. Bob Milacki, Johnson, Milligan, Bill Ripken, Ron Kittle and Mark Williamson were among those who lost significant playing time to injury at a critical juncture in the season.

Highlight: Right-hander Jose Mesa, who underwent a "Tommy John" tendon transplant last year, made an impressive return to the majors in September and established himself as a strong candidate for next year's starting rotation.

Lowlight: Left fielder Phil Bradley and catcher Mickey Tettleton did little in 1990 to advance their value in the upcoming free-agent auction, and the Orioles did little to convince them they were wanted in Baltimore. Bradley complained loudly and was traded to the Chicago White Sox. Tettleton didn't complain at all, but he didn't hit a lick in the second half, either.

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