J. Robinson stuffs doubts for a night

May 15, 1991|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Evening Sun Staff

It wasn't pretty, but the Orioles' 6-1 win over the Oakland A's last night looked like a Rembrandt to a pair of Robinsons.

Jeff Robinson left runners scattered all over the basepaths (1hits and three walks), but never lost control of himself or the game. "Did I have you jumping around more than usual out there?" the righthander asked bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks after Mark Williamson had come on to record the last four outs of Robinson's second win in five decisions.

"No," replied Hendricks, "I thought you were in command all thway." That might have been a slight exaggeration, but Robinson was strong enough throughout to more than satisfy his manager.

"I thought it was beautiful -- just gorgeous, myself," said FranRobinson, who has never seen a win he considered ugly.

"I think he [Jeff Robinson] is always going to be a big pitch counpitcher," said the manager. "But when he gets in a good groove I'd expect to see less baserunners.

"He made pitches when he had to make them -- and that tellyou that he still had good stuff."

Good stuff has never really been absent from Jeff Robinson'repertoire. He has, however, had some erratic spells and physical difficulties that have kept him from establishing himself as a consistent starter.

And this spring, while trying to establish himself with a neteam, Robinson may have unknowingly compounded his problem. He started working on a sinker during spring training and eventually found out it was a good pitch whose time has not yet arrived.

"I was trying to be a finesse pitcher and that's not my style," saithe 6-foot-6, 235-pound righthander. "All of a sudden I had this great [new] pitch and all it did was get me in trouble."

Mostly it got Robinson into a lot of 2-and-0 and 3-and-1 countswhich is not good for any pitcher's earned run average. "That's what I did all spring [when he was generally ineffective]," said Robinson.

The sinker, which generally is effective because it often ends uoutside the strike zone, wasn't working because hitters weren't taking the bait -- perhaps because it was a pitch Robinson hadn't used extensively before.

"I can still use it, and I'm glad I have it," he said, "but it's better isituations where I really need it, rather than when I'm just going after the hitter."

The win couldn't have come at a better time for either RobinsonJeff wasn't happy that he was bouncing between the starting rotation and the bullpen, and Frank wasn't happy that the Orioles weren't winning.

"I've always been one to say how I feel, and I always will be," saiJeff Robinson. "That's not meant to be derogatory. I wasn't able to get out there on a regular basis and I felt that was hindering my ability to help the team."

For his part, Frank Robinson said he was merely trying to put thpieces in place. "When a team is going the way we are, each individual has to realize there's a reason we ask them to do what we do. That's the only way we'll get out of this."

The manager would like nothing better than to be able to penciJeff Robinson into the rotation for 30 more starts, and the feeling is mutual.

"I don't doubt what I can do," said the injury-plagued pitcher who came here in the Mickey Tettleton trade. "There's absolutely nothing wrong with me," he said. "This is the best I've felt and I know what I'm capable of doing."

Last night Robinson threw 132 pitches, a lot by some standardsbut not by his. "I don't think you'll ever see him pitch nine innings and use under 100 pitches," said pitching coach Al Jackson. "For one thing, they hit a lot of foul balls against him because he has good stuff."

There's that phrase again -- "good stuff." It's used a lot, mosoften it seems, with pitchers trying to establish themselves.

"He's one of those guys who can throw the ball to the big part othe plate -- and get away with it," said Jackson. "Tonight he threw a lot of sliders in fastball situations. He can throw the fastball in those situations, but using the slider just makes him that much more effective. And he showed me one of the best sliders in the league.

"He's starting to learn how to control himself," said Jackson"Sometimes when your insides are all bubbly you try to throw too hard, you try too hard to make a pitch that's too perfect. He's doing that less and less."

On a night when the Orioles put two quick runs on the board anhit four home runs, Robinson's ability to survive numerous threats by the A's may have been the most positive note of the evening.

"I don't panic when my back's against the wall," said Robinson. "made good pitches and had good defense."

Most important, he had some runs to work with early in thgame. "Those runs cut their legs off," said Jackson. "They couldn't just play fundamental baseball -- bunt, hit-and-run, steal -- they had to come out hacking and his stuff [that word again] is too good to just hack away."

Robinson's biggest trouble spots came in the fifth and sixtinnings. With one out and runners on second and third (and the score still only 3-1) Jose Canseco was thrown out at the plate by third baseman Craig Worthington on a ground ball hit by Dave Henderson. An inning later, with a 5-1 lead, and runners on first and second with one out, Rickey Henderson (0-for-5, dropping his average to .210) somehow was an easy double-play victim on a ground ball to Cal Ripken at shortstop.

It was hardly an easy night, but for both Robinsons and thOrioles it was a welcome relief.

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