CHICAGO -- Are the Chicago White Sox using electronic means to steal signs from the opposition?
For the second straight year, Orioles manager Frank Robinson has raised that question. In the aftermath of the flak over two straight unsuccessful pitchouts the night before, Robinson said circumstances indicated the failed strategy was more than coincidence.
Robinson said he was sure the White Sox had picked up the Orioles' sign for the pitchout, but questioned how they did it. "You don't run a guy three straight times, and then not have him go on the next two pitches," said Robinson. "That wasn't just coincidence."
White Sox coach Joe Nossek is an accomplished sign-stealer and was the central figure in a similar flap last year. Then, the Orioles spotted Nossek in the stands using a walkie-talkie to make contact with the Chicago bench. A complaint to the league office resulted in the use of electronic methods of communication being restricted to the press box area.
This year, with teams permitted to have six coaches in uniform instead of only five, Nossek is working out of the White Sox dugout. "He's like a yo-yo over there," Robinson said of Nossek.
"He pops his head up every now and then, and then he disappears. I wouldn't be surprised if they didn't have a monitor over there and a camera on our dugout.
"Based on what went on last year, that wouldn't surprise me at all," said Robinson, who admitted he gambled and lost by calling the pitchouts. Scott Fletcher had fouled off three straight pitches with Ozzie Guillen attempting to steal second base with two outs.
"I was trying to get out of the inning," said Robinson, explaining the pitchouts. "We had a guy up there [Fletcher] who has killed us, we had a guy [Ben McDonald] struggling on the mound, and they ran on three straight pitches. Why not take a chance and try to get out of it?
"I can see where he might not go on the fourth pitch, just to give him a breather," said Robinson. "But if you're running three straight times, why would you stop on the next two?"
Nossek's reputation as a sign-stealer is well known within baseball circles, especially by Robinson, who had both he and Chicago manager Jeff Torborg on his coaching staff at Cleveland.
* SAY IT AIN'T SO, JOE: Joe Price, who was signed to a Triple A Rochester contract with the idea he could rejoin the Orioles after May 1, has had his timetable rearranged.
The lefthanded reliever, whose contract option was not renewed last winter because the Orioles felt his back condition was too risky, had a horrendous outing two nights ago. Price faced four hitters and gave up a walk and three home runs against the Phillies' Scranton farm club.
Mike Mussina, last year's No. 1 draft choice, started the game and left with a 6-4 lead. It was the second time (the other was Opening Day) that Price figured in a bullpen collapse that cost Mussina a victory.
* OTHER FARM NOTES: Hagerstown's Paul Carey leads the Double A Eastern League with 14 RBIs. Single A Frederick's Mel Wearing leads the Carolina League with 13 RBIs after a two-homer, six-RBI game two nights ago. Righthander James Derrick is 1-0 with a 0.00 earned run average in 13 innings (15 strikeouts, six hits, three walks) for Single A Kane County.
* THIS 'N THAT: Tim Raines' fourth-inning single last night broke an 0-for-23 streak from the left side of the plate and an 0-for-15 string against the Orioles. Carlton Fisk has hit safely in all 11 games in which he has played.
Going back to last year, when he established a major-league record for shortstops by playing 95 games without an error, Cal Ripken has a streak of 42 errorless games. It is the fifth time in his career that Ripken has compiled a streak of 40 or more games without an error.