Smith is welcome pick-me-up

May 29, 1991|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Evening Sun Staff

Roy Smith deserves better. The guy stops the Orioles' longest losing streak of the season at five games, and what does he get?

Next for Mr. Smith is a date with the formidable Roger Clemens Sunday in Boston.

But Smith is taking that in stride. "Clemens isn't going to bat against me," he said.

Summoned from Triple A Rochester last Friday, Smith worked into the seventh inning, allowing only two runs, to pick up the 5-2 win over the Cleveland Indians last night. It was his first major-league victory since last July, when he was with the Minnesota Twins.

When manager John Oates went out to pull Smith, the crowd gave the 29-year-old righthander a standing ovation.

"Roy, this is for you," Oates told him. "Enjoy it. You deserve it."

"It was nice," Smith said later. "But I don't know if it was so much for me as it was for the fact we had a lead and a chance to win."

LeRoy Purdy Smith III has had a major-league career of no great distinction, compiling a 25-27 record with Cleveland and then Minnesota over seven years. After last season, when he was 5-10 with the Twins, they released him.

"That hurt," Smith said. "Minnesota finished last [in the AL West], so I knew there would be changes. But I liked Minneapolis and I liked the guys."

The Orioles signed Smith to a minor-league contract in January. They were influenced in part by the fact Smith was 4-0 against them the past two seasons.

"We knew he knew how to pitch because he did so well against us," said pitching coach Al Jackson. "If he has his control, he gives you a good game."

At Triple A Rochester, Smith fell under the tutelage of Dick Bosman, the Red Wings' pitching coach.

"I told Dick I hoped we could make it a constructive time -- go back to the pits and re-tool," Smith said. "I said I wanted to improve my slider and develop confidence in my straight changeup. I already had a curve and a spot fastball that were my strengths.

"When Bosman played, he was a pitcher, not a thrower. He caught me in the bullpen and really helped."

Smith was 4-2 at Rochester with a 2.60 earned run average. After the Orioles summoned him Friday, he made an inauspicious relief appearance the next night, facing one batter, the Yankees' Jesse Barfield, who promptly singled and went around to score. Such was Smith's preparation for his 80th major-league start last night.

Smith is at a loss to explain his stunning success against the Orioles.

"The only times I saw them I beat them," he said. "Don't ask me why. I hope I can find someone else to beat."

The Indians are a possibility. Entering last night's game, they had a lifetime batting average against him of .382. On this night to remember, he restricted them to 6-for-25, a .240 showing.

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