The release of veteran left-hander Joe Price had to come as sad news to his former Baltimore Orioles teammates, with one notable exception.
Price was well-liked in the Orioles clubhouse, but one 1990 bullpen-mate stands to benefit from his departure -- the irrepressible and apparently unreleaseable Kevin Hickey.
Hickey was released near the end of spring training and then re-signed to a Class AA contract. He has been pitching well for the Hagerstown Suns but until now had little hope of being recalled to the major-league roster.
He still looks like a long shot, but one major obstacle was eliminated when Price asked out of the organization. Most of the promising left-handers in the Orioles minor-league system are starters, so Hickey might have to be considered if a need arose.
The phone finally rang Friday, but unfortunately it was just me.
"I have no reason to expect a call," he said. "[Mike] Flanagan and [Paul] Kilgus are doing well. But if they have a need, they know where I'm at, and I'm ready."
Hickey has pitched in five games. He has given up one run on five hits in six innings and has eight strikeouts. He said he has struck out every left-handed hitter he has faced, but we're talking Class AA ball here.
"Yeah, I know, if you get them out, you're supposed to," he said. "If you don't, you're horse manure."
So far, he's doing what he's supposed to do and waiting by the phone. But, in the meantime, leave it to the Hick-man to make the most of a discouraging situation. It isn't easy being 15 years older than everybody else on the team, but it's a living.
"I'm having a blast," he said. "The kids down here really look up to me. I'm trying to show them the ropes. It's tough at times. The 12-hour bus rides aren't any fun. But the Hick-man is using his influence to get us a video [-equipped] bus."
The man will never change.
Better late than Navarro Dept.: Right-hander Jaime Navarro, today's starter for the Milwaukee Brewers, has a history of
getting worse as he goes along. According to "The 1991 Elias Baseball Analyst," Navarro entered the 1991 season with opposing batters hitting .249 in his first pass through the batting order, .281 the second time through and .341 thereafter. That does not necessarily bode well for the Orioles, who entered the weekend having scored 25 of their 52 runs in the first three innings.
With still more apologies to talk show host David Letterman, here's a top 10 list of reasons the new Camden Yards ballpark might not open on time:
10. New dugout spy-cam will not be developed until 1993.
9. Jim Palmer comeback attempt going well, but he won't b ready for Opening Day start for another week or so.
8. Cost under-runs must be made up before state officials wil allow ribbon-cutting.
7. Building commission rules warehouse foundation won' withstand collection of 300,000 politicians and Chamber of Commerce types invited to Eli Jacobs' Opening Day gala.
6. Disgruntled Washington expansion group pulls practical joke reroutes traffic to RFK Stadium.
5. Dan Quayle, chosen to throw out first ball, is already there.
4. Last-minute campaign to name stadium after Gov. Willia Donald Schaefer fails, prompting mysterious phone call canceling Opening Day.
3. Team bus is late getting in from Florida.
2. New archaeological excavation uncovers site of second saloo in outfield, this one owned by great-grandparents of Larry Sheets.
OC 1. Stadium mysteriously disappears, turns up in Indianapolis. The newest Bo Jackson/Nike commercial, which will hit the airwaves soon, features a "Field of Dreams" parody, with a barefoot Bo in a Chicago White Sox uniform playing off the opening of the new Comiskey Park.
"If you build it, I will come," Bo says.
He is identified at the end of the commercial as Shoeless Bo Jackson.
California Angels outfielder Luis Polonia said he doesn't believe voodoo, but he keeps a doll in his locker just in case he needs a little help with his hitting.
We're not talking Barbie and Ken here. We're talking a grotesque figurine that has bulging eyes, a protruding tongue and even a name (Joe Vu). Polonia torments it after he has a bad game and pampers it after a good performance at the plate.
"I don't believe in voodoo, but I do believe in a good-luck charm, and Joe Vu is mine," Polonia said. "I talk to him every day. We have little meetings together before the game. Sometimes, I put a cigarette in his mouth. Sometimes, I feed him coffee or light some candles in [front of] him. My teammates come over and talk to him, too."
Polonia got the doll in Milwaukee, which probably is the voodoo capital of the Midwest, but who would ever suspect? He carries it with him everywhere the club goes, but in his more lucid moments says it's all a big joke.
"A lot of people think I believe in him, but I don't," Polonia said, grabbing a bat and holding it up. "I believe in this."