Minnesota's top pitcher remembers being pounded by Orioles last season

June 18, 1991|By Andre Williams

Scott Erickson of the Minnesota Twins is tied for the American League lead in victories with 10 and is 3-0 with a 1.50 ERA in the past two weeks.

So it might seem that the Baltimore Orioles have a stern task ahead of them tonight, when they try to smack Erickson out of that groove.

But think back to June 30, 1990. In Erickson's second major-league start, four days after he pitched the Twins to a 9-1 victory over the Texas Rangers, the Orioles scored four earned runs on the way to a 6-0 victory.

"I remember that game because I pitched bad," said Erickson. "I was a little wild and got shut out. But it's tough to win when you don't score runs."

Orioles first baseman Randy Milligan remembers that game, too, but said it doesn't matter much.

"You can't look back to that situation," Milligan said. "When a guy is on a roll like he's been lately, he's going to be a totally different pitcher from [last year]. We just have to go by what he is doing in our ballgame [tonight] and not look back."

The Twins have been crossing home plate frequently during their 15-game winning streak, and Erickson did his part, terrorizing batters with his fastball and slider.

"He's doing a good job, as everybody in the country knows right now," said Twins manager Tom Kelly. "He'son a good roll right now and hopefully he can keep going. He's been magnificent for us."

Erickson, 23, has a 20-6 record -- 10-2 this season with a 1.60 FTC ERA -- since being called up from the minors last spring.

"I've really been impressed with him," said Twins pitching coach Dick Such. "I really haven't had to do much of anything with him. He's worked on his change-up, and other than that, he's had his fastball working well."

The Twins can thank Erickson's coach at Homestead High School in Culpertino, Calif., for encouraging him to see what wonders he could create with his arm.

"I played shortstop and third base until my junior year, when my coach came up to me and said, 'Why don't you try pitching?' " Erickson said. "It was just one of those things. I was always wild, and over the years I've gained a little control."

He's also developed a little more steam on his fastball since his days at the University of Arizona, though he won't boast about it.

"I'll do whatever it takes to win," Erickson said. "Sometimes you ,, need a strikeout and sometimes you don't. It's not a priority. I don't consider myself a power pitcher. A lot of power pitchers strike out guys, but if I can get up there and let the guy hit the first pitch for a ground out, I'll take that every time."

He's a little modest. Besides leading the American League in victories, Erickson has 64 strikeouts and two shutouts. Yet, ask him how it feels to be mentioned in the same breath as Nolan Ryan and Roger Clemens, and he talks about his teammates first.

"I don't have anything to do with how many runs we score," he said. "We're fortunate right now that everybody scores runs. Every pitcher wants to win 20 games, but if you have a 0.00 ERA and your team doesn't win, you can have the best stuff in the majors, but it just won't matter."

The raucous cheers and fans who mob him after each victory are delightful for Erickson, but that's about it. "It's all right, but it isn't going to help me out there on the field, and that's when I have to do my job," Erickson said.

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