WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- Right-hander Jeff Robinson hopes the Baltimore Orioles take the time to get to know him better. He has not opened any eyes in his first two exhibition appearances, so he just has to hope he hasn't closed any minds.
The Boston Red Sox opened up on him for eight runs in the second inning yesterday on the way to a 16-7 Grapefruit League victory over the Orioles at Chain O' Lakes Park.
Robinson was not charged with an earned run in the two-out, eight-run inning, but that was small consolation after he was hit hard for the second time in a row. He gave up six runs on nine hits in his 1991 exhibition debut last week. He gave up back-to-back home runs to Mike Greenwell and Jack Clark yesterday -- about 850 feet worth if you laid them end to end.
"That was a thing of beauty, wasn't it?" Robinson said. "But it's OK, because I've got my worst lifetime record against those guys anyway."
Talk about whistling past the graveyard. The Orioles acquired Robinson with every intention of putting him in the starting rotation, but he will have to start showing them more than a wry sense of humor if he is to remain a candidate.
Manager Frank Robinson confirmed that after the game, although he insisted he will draw no hard conclusions from Robinson's -- or anyone else's -- first two exhibition appearances.
"He didn't create the situation [in the second inning], but you'd like to see him get out of it with less than eight runs," Frank Robinson said. "The next time out, I'd like to see him throwing all his pitches for strikes. I'm not worried about him. I don't judge anybody on the first two times out. He isn't having to try and make the club. He has to get himself ready to pitch. The first two times out, throw them out the window."
Jeff Robinson maintains that it usually takes him longer than two times out to get his game together. He's still relying heavily on his fastball, without an effective breaking pitch to keep opposing hitters off balance. The Red Sox hit everything that didn't move.
"To say I'm not disappointed, that would be a lie," Robinson said. "I'm not worried, but the whole point is how much concern are you putting in other people's minds."
No one would say. There are four weeks remaining until the opening of the regular season. There is plenty of time to erase a bad first impression. Robinson is, after all, a pitcher with a track record, even if he's coming off an arm injury and a 5.96 ERA.
"I'm not ready to throw a lot of breaking balls yet, so they were sitting on my fastball," he said. "I threw a few [breaking balls] early, then I finally said 'Forget it' and struck out Mike Marshall throwing a fastball and three breaking balls."
His pitch selection was a matter of some concern to pitching coach Al Jackson, who encouraged him to mix up his pitches more than he apparently wanted.
"I thought his choice of breaking ball was bad," Jackson said. "My thinking is that it's easier to throw strikes with a slider than it is with a forkball. He was trying to do it the other way around. I disagreed with
the way he handled it.
"Tomorrow, I'll sit down and talk to him. I expect him to do the right things. It's not the results. It's a matter of taking the right approach."
Though Robinson claims he is not worried about having to make the club, he has to wonder if the coaching staff knows enough about him to make an accurate assessment of his ability this early.
"I was talking to Al Jackson today. he said, 'You've got to throw more breaking balls to keep them from sitting on the fastball.' I said I didn't feel ready to start setting up hitters.
"I've never done anything fantastic until the last two or three times out in the spring. But I've never given up eight runs with two outs before either."
The manager is willing to throw out the first two outings, but he apparently is not going to wait until the final week or two of spring training to begin formulating an opinion.
"I don't think he really wants that," Frank Robinson said. "I'm looking next time out for improvement. I'm hoping he's not going to stay at the same level of performance until the last week or so. That's wearing things a little thin."
If the Red Sox wore him out, the 29-year-old right-hander was not alone. John Mitchell followed him to the mound and gave up six runs in 1 2/3 innings.
It was one of those days.
"In my mind, I'm not worried," Robinson said. "I'm disappointed that happened. I'm a better pitcher than that. But when you go to a new team, you do wonder what they are thinking."