Orioles were dug in for Poole quick pitch

On Baseball

August 16, 1991|By Jim Henneman

When the Orioles acquired Jim Poole on waivers from the Texas Rangers May 31, there was every reason to greet the deal with a traditional ho-hum.

After all, this was a 25-year-old lefthander coming from a teadesperate for pitchers. How much of a bargain could the Orioles reasonably expect for their $50,000?

It turns out this was more than a routine transaction. Apparentlthe Rangers made a hasty, and perhaps costly, decision based primarily on one poor performance.

The kicker is that Poole had two options left and could havbeen sent out without going through waivers -- but the Rangers went a step farther and took him off their 40-man control list, which gave any team the option putting in a claim. "They had two minor-league free agents they wanted to bring up and only had one spot on the 40-man roster," said Poole. "I think they knew they were going to lose me when they put me on waivers."

The Orioles had tried to obtain Poole from the Dodgers laswinter, but didn't top the Rangers' offer of two minor leaguers regarded as "mid-level prospects," which translated means borderline. When his name was spotted on the waiver wire by Roy Krasick, director of minor-league operations, the Orioles quickly claimed Poole and immediately optioned him to Rochester.

The word is that Poole was never on very firm ground in TexasAnd reportedly he failed to impress manager Tommy Lasorda while with the Dodgers briefly last year.

Poole's trade to the Rangers was negotiated by the minor-leagudepartments of the two teams. But Texas manager Bobby Valentine idolizes Lasorda and may have been influenced by his opinion.

After starting the season at Triple A Oklahoma City, Poole wacalled up by the Rangers and appeared in five games, compiling a 4.50 earned run average. Most of the damage against him came May 25, when lefthanded hitters Alvin Davis and Pete O'Brien delivered RBI singles against Poole.

The next day Poole was gone, but not merely optioned back tOklahoma City as he expected. Instead he went on waivers and had to wait five days to find which team was his new employer.

It's no wonder Poole went back to Georgia Tech to completwork for his degree in engineering, which he received last December before going to play winter ball. "Those $35,000-a-year jobs are hard to come by," he said when asked why he was going back to school.

When he joined the Orioles July 30 in Seattle, the first battePoole faced was (you guessed it) Alvin Davis. On his first pitch (you guessed it again) Davis hit an RBI single. However, since then he has retired 35 of 41 hitters (three reached on errors). He has an 0.77 ERA with 13 strikeouts and no walks in 11 2/3 innings with the Orioles.

He may never appear at the top of relief pitcher standings, but athe moment the lefthander ranks as more of a steal than a bargain.

Oh yes -- the pitchers the Rangers brought up when Poole wawaived were Eric Nolte and Joe Bitker. They are both back in the minor leagues.

Footnote: A little over two years ago a 19-year-old lefthander made his major-league debut for the Texas Rangers and failed to retire any of the five Toronto hitters he faced. The next day he was sent back to the minor leagues, and four days later he was part of the deal that would bring Harold Baines from the Chicago White Sox.

Two days before the Rangers came to town this week, 21-year-old Wilson Alvarez made his second major-league start. He pitched a no-hitter against the Orioles.

* CITO IN/OUT OF CONTROL: You no doubt saw the highlight film showing Toronto manager Cito Gaston and David Wells going at it verbally on the mound after the lefthander had been shelled two starts ago. After being removed, Wells refused to give up the baseball, throwing it instead in the general direction of foul territory beyond the third base line as he stalked off the mound.

Gaston didn't appreciate Wells' actions any more than hiperformance and, after making the change on the mound, followed his pitcher up the walkway leading to the clubhouse. The two continued their heated debate until Wells reached the relative calm of the locker room.

Asked if the two had exchanged anything other than words, onBlue Jay close to the scene left no doubt who he thought would have won a physical confrontation. "If any punches had been thrown, Wells would still be laying there," he said.

The outburst was clearly out of character for Gaston, the softesspoken manager in the big leagues. But obviously, just because he's quiet doesn't mean the Blue Jays' leader is a pushover.

When last seen, in his next start, Wells was ripping things off thdugout wall after being shellacked for his fifth straight loss.

* SO MUCH FOR PROTECTION: National League observers say third baseman Terry Pendleton is having a career year. "He's been a good player, but never this good," said veteran scout Charlie Fox. "Everything he hits is a rocket."

In the first 63 games the Braves played without both Sid Breaand David Justice, Pendleton hit .355 with eight home runs and 34 runs batted in.

* THIS 'N THAT: Cubs second baseman Ryne Sandberg has had seven streaks of 40 or more consecutive errorless games.

Jeromy Burnitz, the Mets' No. 1 pick in the 1990 amateur draft, iclose to becoming a 30-30 man in the Double A Eastern League. Burnitz has 28 homers and 26 stolen bases. The last minor league 30-30 player was the Brewers' Greg Vaughn, with Single A Beloit in 1987.

With 34 home runs and 100 runs batted in, Cecil Fielder is iexcellent position to lead the American League in both categories for the second straight year. The last AL player to do that was Jimmie Foxx (1932-33).

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