McDowell puts nerves and Orioles away

April 09, 1991|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Evening Sun Staff

Jack McDowell says he was nervous during his Opening Day start against the Orioles yesterday. If that's the case, the Chicago White Sox ought to find a way to give him the jitters more often.

"There were a lot of butterflies in my stomach. Some big-time butterflies," said McDowell. "I probably didn't get rid of them until the fourth inning."

By then, McDowell had already yielded the only run he would allow en route to an overpowering 9-1 victory at Memorial Stadium.

McDowell, 25, thinks he caught the jitters from 43-year-old catcher Carlton Fisk.

"Probably because as I was walking out there to warm up, Pudge was telling me that he felt really nervous, that he felt sick to his stomach," McDowell said. "I'm like, 'Great.' "

McDowell certainly looked great, going the distance, giving up just four hits and striking out 10 -- a career high -- for the second time at Memorial Stadium.

"I felt really comfortable because I did not get behind anybody and I was throwing strikes," said McDowell, who was a teammate of Orioles starter Jeff Ballard for a year when the two were at Stanford. "That always makes it easier to pitch."

The groove that McDowell got into was just a continuation of the way he pitched in spring training, where he recorded 18 strikeouts and a 1.17 earned run average in 23 innings.

"That's as good a stuff as I've seen since I've been here. Every time I looked for one pitch, he threw me something else," said Orioles catcher Bob Melvin.

"My only goal in spring training was to get off to a good start," said McDowell, who was 14-9 last season. "My first two years, I didn't get a good start at all. But over the winter, I just kept throwing. I never put the mitt down and I kept working."

McDowell benefited as much as anyone from yesterday's record Opening Day warmth -- a high of 89 degrees -- as he stayed sharp throughout, allowing just two extra-base hits -- an RBI double to Glenn Davis in the first and a leadoff double to Mike Devereaux in the sixth.

"If this had been a cold day, then I would have been concerned," Chicago manager Jeff Torborg said about letting his pitcher go the distance. "His pitch count never got that high [123]. I had a feeling that he could go a ways into this game."

"I wanted to finish it, but they told me I had 100-something pitches after seven," said McDowell. "I wasn't sure they were going to leave me out there for it.

"I did make a comment to Sammy [Ellis, the pitching coach] that this was pretty much my last inning. He looked at me and said, 'How do you feel?' I said, 'I feel fine.' And he said, 'Go out there and finish it.' That was all that was said about it."

McDowell had to share game heroics with rightfielder Sammy Sosa, who was 3-for-4 with two home runs, including a three-run shot in the second that put the Orioles behind for good. He had five RBIs.

Sosa, who was the first American Leaguer last season to reach double figures in doubles (26), triples (10) and home runs (15) before tailing off, came into the game with a career average of .179 against the Orioles.

He also came in battling for playing time in the outfield because of newcomers such as Tim "Rock" Raines and Cory Snyder. Torborg thought he had his outfield rotation figured out, but Sosa might have revised his plans.

"I have no idea at this point," Torborg said. "I mean, I've got an idea, but I'll sit on it."

Sosa says he's not worried about sitting because he knows Torborg will make the right decision.

"Those guys are going to help the team," he said. "I don't worry about the lineup. Whatever he [Torborg] does is OK. He knows that whatever he needs me to do, I'll do it. I know I can play the game."

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