Bus rides, bad bounces mean bad day for Orioles Robinson irritated by poor defense

March 20, 1991|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Sun Staff Correspondent

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA — FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The Baltimore Orioles could have blamed it on the bus ride, or the bright sky, or any number of things, but manager Frank Robinson was not in any mood for excuses.

His club had just completed a 3 1/2 -hour demonstration of what not to do on defense, which led to an 8-4 defeat at the surer hands of the New York Yankees. Robinson was not amused.

"I don't want to hear about the bus ride," he said. "I don't care how long you've been on a bus, you should still be able to get off the bus and handle routine plays. You can't be pleased when you see something like that out there."

The Orioles committed four errors in the first two innings, nearly undermining a solid effort by right-hander Jeff Robinson, who bounced back from two rocky performances to give up just one hit over five innings in his third exhibition start. The defense also executed poorly behind rookie Mike Mussina, who gave up six runs during three innings to take the loss.

It wasn't exactly the "A" team, even if it was the "A" game on a split-squad day that also featured a 5-1 Orioles victory over the Detroit Tigers in Sarasota. Juan Bell started at shortstop and made two errors. Tim Hulett started at second and made one. Third baseman Leo Gomez made an ugly throwing error and looked bad on a couple of other plays. The manager was not in a forgiving frame of mind.

"It doesn't matter who was out there," Robinson said. "You've got to be able to catch the ball and throw the ball. The errors we made today don't belong at any level, and we should have been charged with two or three more."

It was not an isolated incident. The Orioles have made 18 errors and allowed 19 unearned runs in their past seven Grapefruit League games.

This is the point in spring training when the gears are supposed to start turning, but the Orioles have not been able to shift out of neutral.

Randy Milligan spent another uneventful day in left field. He has played 17 straight innings without a ball flying in his direction, though he did get to chase some base hits yesterday. Robinson had hoped that the outfield experiment would be at a more advanced stage at this point, but a sprained ankle slowed Milligan early on and a lack of on-the-job training is making matters worse.

"That's what's tough down here in spring training," Robinson said. "You're experimenting with something and you don't get a chance to see what it looks like."

Milligan left the game after six innings and then balls started to fall all over left field.

"I don't know if that kind of stuff evens out," Robinson added, "but I wasn't going to leave him out there and play him into the ground."

The bi-coastal split-squad doubleheader provided the first meaningful day of competition at third base, where Craig Worthington had an excellent day in Sarasota and Gomez had a frustrating afternoon in Fort Lauderdale.

Worthington had been out of the lineup with a strained right quadriceps muscle, but he returned to made a couple of big defensive plays and also contributed a double in three at-bats.

Gomez picked up a routine bouncer in the first inning and threw the ball all the way to the right-field foul area to allow a run to score. He also had trouble with a couple of ground balls that were ruled base hits.

"It was a bad day," Gomez said. "We had the long drive in the morning and it was hard to see the ball off the bat. I'll do a better job tomorrow. It's too late to do anything about today.

"I don't like to make errors. I'm working hard, but they happen."

Robinson was not pleased with Gomez's defensive play yesterday, but he said that it is far too early to draw any conclusions about the third-base situation.

"It's only one game," he said. "I'm not going to judge a guy on one game."

Especially a game that followed a four-hour bus ride that began at 6:45 a.m., but that's old news for a team that is as driven as the Orioles.

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