Telford has day to forget Orioles pitcher demoted, hit hard

March 27, 1991|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Sun Staff Correspondent

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Nobody had to tell Anthony Telford that yesterday was not his day.

Before breaking camp at Twin Lakes Park in Sarasota, Telford learned that the Baltimore Orioles had optioned him to the Class AAA Rochester Red Wings.

Several hours later, he couldn't get the ball over the plate in a 9-9, 12-inning tie with the Philadelphia Phillies that was called by consent of both teams.

Telford tried to be upbeat afterward, but he appeared down, the victim of a numbers game and a mediocre spring.

"I would hope he wouldn't let being cut affect him," said Orioles manager Frank Robinson. "I would hope he is a little above that."

Was that the case?

"Of course, I was thinking about what happened earlier," Telford said. "It works on your mind, no matter how much you try to block it out."

Telford retired the first hitter he faced, then allowed a single and walked three straight batters to touch off a six-run seventh inning.

"I just couldn't throw strikes," he said. "I wasn't near the plate."

The organization's Pitcher of the Year in 1990 after going 14-4 with a 1.86 ERA for the Class A Frederick Keys and Class AA Hagerstown Suns, Telford burst into Memorial Stadium on Aug. 19 with seven innings of one-hit baseball against the then-defending world champion Oakland Athletics.

He finished with a 3-3 record and seemingly had a shot at making the rotation this season.

"You can't fit 11 into 10," Robinson said. "He just didn't make the club. Down there [Rochester], he'll get work. We know he's better than he showed today."

Telford had only 7 1/3 spring innings before yesterday and had gone 10 days without facing a hitter.

"But they have to do the best they can for everybody with this schedule," he said. "Still, you never get enough chances."

Being a starter with the RedWings, for whom he has played only one game (late in 1987), is almost preferable to inactivity in the majors, Telford said.

"As far as experience is concerned, there's nothing like being here," he said. "It's still a big jump from Triple-A to here.

"But I'm not a reliever by any stretch of the imagination. Relief doesn't come naturally, and since my injury [shoulder surgery in 1988], I'm a finesse pitcher, so to be successful I have to pitch regularly.

"Quality time out there is essential to me. If I don't get innings, I won't be successful."

Before the surgery, Telford made the All-America first team at San Jose State in 1987 and was averaging more than a strikeout an inning in the early stages of his professional career.

Now, he must depend on guile, rather than velocity.

"I will be ready if they call me back," he said. "My arm is fine. That's not the problem. I just have to get innings and time on the mound.

"It won't hurt to work on some things, but I'm not a guy who can go in every six or seven days and get guys out. I don't want to get tossed in relief just to accumulate innings."

His slide began in September, when he struggled to a 7.50 ERA during five starts and was bombed by New York at Yankee Stadium in his last outing.

"It's an uncomfortable feeling," he said. "You just try to take this the best you can."

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