Orioles chart different course Robinson to pump some new blood into anemic attack

April 11, 1991|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Evening Sun Staff

Let's get the negative stuff out of the way fast.

The last time the Orioles opened a season with two straight losses they proceeded to . . . add on 19 more to remove any doubt about their final resting place in the standings.

That won't happen again. It's guaranteed. It says so right in manager Frank Robinson's handbook.

If there's any concern over 17 straight scoreless innings, a .119 team batting average and a sluggish 0-2 start everybody is doing a good job hiding the worry lines.

"We're not going to panic after two games," Robinson said after last night's 2-0 loss to the Chicago White Sox.

That doesn't mean, however, that the Orioles are going to keep trying it the same way until they get it right. Robinson said he would shuffle the lineup when the Orioles begin a three-game weekend series in Texas tomorrow night.

Joe Orsulak, always the forgotten man this time of the year, Brady Anderson and Juan Bell will make their season debuts on this trip, which continues in Milwaukee next week. But Robinson insists it won't be a shakeup, or a renewal of spring training competition for starting jobs.

It's something the manager insists he would have done, regardless of the outcome of the first two games. Nevertheless, circumstances make it easier to work more players into the lineup.

"I think it'll help us to get away for a week right now," said Robinson. "We've got some guys trying to do too much. We just need to settle down and get into a groove."

Noting the schedule and the pitching matchups, Robinson said the series against the Rangers affords the opportunity to get more parts involved in the operation. Righthanders Bobby Witt and Nolan Ryan will sandwich lefthander Kenny Ryan in the Rangers' rotation.

"Orsulak will probably start twice and Anderson at least once," said Robinson. "I don't want to run Randy [Milligan] into the ground out there [in leftfield].

"It'll give me a chance to give [Dwight] Evans two straight days off and keep him from playing right after a long plane ride. But this is something I was planning on doing anyhow, it has nothing to do with the first two games. I'll get Bell some at-bats on this road trip too."

Robinson said any changes would be made in an effort to try and keep everybody in tune. "If they're going to do anything, then they've got to see live pitching before their lose their edge," he said. "You can't let them sit too long or the effects of spring training will be gone.

"I'm happy with the hitters we have," Robinson emphasized. "They're going to hit. Right now we've got some guys who maybe are trying too hard to get the big hit."

Orsulak evolves as something of the ace in the hole for the Orioles. A consistent hitter in each of his three years here he usually ends up as the odd man out in the outfield rotation -- only to emerge as one of the most dependable performers.

"He can give us a little different look," admitted Robinson. "He makes contact, gives us a little more speed, and can put things in motion with a base hit. He's going to get his at-bats."

Most likely Sam Horn will continue as the designated hitter against Witt and Ryan, two of the hardest throwing righthanders in baseball. But more and more it appears that Robinson will utilize a rotation system in the DH spot.

Evans, Milligan and Orsulak all fit into that picture, despite the fact that Horn is the only lefthanded power hitter on the club. "We'll work it out," said Robinson.

Coming into the start of the season, the last thing Robinson thought he'd have to defend was the offense. But then the Orioles went out and scored one run in the first two games, allowing the White Sox to escape Baltimore with a team earned run average of 0.50.

"We didn't come into the season with anybody not swinging good," said Robinson. "And it looked like we were peaking at just the right time.

"That's what catches you off guard. But those things happen."

Last night against Greg Hibbard the Orioles had only one serious threat -- in the fifth inning, when a double by Craig Worthington, a single by Leo Gomez and a walk to Chris Hoiles loaded the bases with one out.

But Hibbard survived two tough at-bats by striking out Bill Ripken and Mike Devereaux, the latter after going to a 3-and-0 count. Lefthanders are not supposed to handle the Orioles as easily as Hibbard did last night, and not even the powerful left-to-right wind was a valid excuse.

"We didn't make any adjustments," said Robinson. "Their defense gave us rightfield [the Chicago outfielders shaded the Orioles strongly to leftfield in both games], but we didn't use it enough. We got three hits -- two of them to right [Worthington and Gomez] and one up the middle [Evans]. Everything else was pull, pull, pull."

The Orioles now have a week to get their act together on the road before bringing it back home and attempting to prove that the preview was just a nasty reminder of darker days.

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