Flanagan to start today, taking Robinson's turn Left-hander likely to return to bullpen

May 08, 1991|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Sun Staff Correspondent

OAKLAND, CALF. — OAKLAND, Calif. -- Left-hander Mike Flanagan has been so effective in the Baltimore Orioles bullpen that it was beginning to look as if he never would get out, but he'll take a turn in the starting rotation today.

Pitching coach Al Jackson said yesterday that Flanagan will take Jeff Robinson's place in the rotation for the second game of the short series against the Oakland Athletics, but might return to the bullpen this weekend.

"You hate to lose him from the bullpen," Jackson said. "If he starts tomorrow, we maybe lose him for two days if he goes five innings. I think he'll be ready for relief again by Friday or Saturday."

Flanagan got the spot start because he has an 18-7 career record against the A's and an 11-1 lifetime mark at the Oakland Coliseum. He also has been one of the most consistent pitchers on an inconsistent pitching staff.

Robinson is 1-3 after four starts, two of which have been solid and two of which that have lasted two innings or less. But he got just one out in his most recent appearance, giving up five runs in a loss Saturday to the California Angels. He came on in relief last night against the A's.

"Jeff just has to work some things out," Jackson said. "With all the off-days, he has had to work on six or seven days' rest. That could have happened to anybody."

Flanagan has not started a game since early in 1990, when he was struggling to keep his place in the Toronto Blue Jays rotation. He started several games in spring training, but opened the 1991 season in the Orioles bullpen, where he has a 1.50 ERA in 18 innings.

The decision to move him into the rotation was surprising, especially after manager Frank Robinson hinted earlier this week that the next spot start would go to either Dave Johnson or Bob Milacki.

"I don't know if I was surprised," Flanagan said. "I've been doing a pretty good job out of the pen, and I don't look that far ahead. I've got a pretty good track record here, and I didn't get any work in California."

Flanagan said he isn't sure how he'll adjust to the sudden change in routine. He said he'll probably treat it like a long relief appearance and warm up quickly instead of going back to the long warm-up favored by full-time starters.

"I think I'll almost have to do that," he said. "My arm is conditioned to getting loose in five minutes. I wouldn't want to be warming up 15 minutes tomorrow. I'm not going to pace myself or anything.

"I don't have any prediction or any idea how long I can go. I'm just going to throw strikes, get ahead of the hitters and see what happens."

Jackson said that the rest of the rotation would remain on the existing schedule. Flanagan will take Robinson's place today. Robinson could come back to pitch the next time his turn comes up, but he will pitch out of the bullpen in the meantime.

There remains the possibility of further alterations in the pitching schematic, with Milacki pitching well in long relief and Johnson seemingly unsuited for a relief role, but Frank Robinson is hesitant to look beyond the weekend series in Seattle.

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