Frohwirth is no bullpen underachiever Submarine delivery eats up right-handers

August 29, 1991|By Kent Baker

And the 1991 award for discoveries and pleasant surprises goes to . . . Todd Frohwirth.

In a year of ills, flops and drops for the Baltimore Orioles, the man who drops down under has been a relief, his career resurrected on a different team in a different league.

"He has been nothing short of exceptional," said manager John Oates. "Few people get on base against him, much less start a rally. I don't think anyone could have looked you in the eye last spring and say he was going to pitch this well."

Frohwirth (5-2, 1.75 ERA in 67 innings) has pitched 13 2/3 consecutive scoreless relief innings, allowing four hits. Right-handed batters are hitting .159 (25-for-157) against him. He has permitted one home run in 67 2/3 innings -- to the Kansas City Royals' Danny Tartabull.

This from a pitcher who worked only 2 2/3 innings in spring training to a 10.13 ERA.

"I feel like I should make the team out of camp next year," XTC Frohwirth said. "I don't think I'm going to fall out of this way I'm pitching."

Frohwirth, 28, said he was throwing exactly the same way when he signed with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1984. But the Phillies wanted him to pitch more like Kent Tekulve, so he brought his submarine delivery up "a foot and a half or two" and had mixed results.

He was with the parent club in four different seasons after leading four different minor leagues in saves. But the Phillies decided to go with power pitchers in their bullpen, and he was odd man out.

"I was discouraged this spring training," he said. "I had six camps I could have gone to. But my agent and I decided Baltimore was the team, so I signed, then went 19 days without getting into a game."

Oates said: "A minor-league free agent is seldom going to get innings in the spring. You've got to get the guys ready who are going to pitch."

As it turned out, that was a blessing in disguise. Frohwirth was adjusting his style, and he says he was "lucky" to go to Rochester pitching coach Dick Bosman for two months "to fix myself."

"He was the first coach I ever worked with who knew exactly what I was talking about, what I was feeling. He got it right."

The rest is submarine history.

Frohwirth has been invaluable as a late-inning setup man and a long man, appearing in 38 games.

"I saw him with the Phillies when I was with the Cubs," Oates said. "But he didn't throw like he is now. He consistently throws strikes with velocity and movement, and camouflages the ball.

"He gives hitters a little bit different look. They're not accustomed to the ball coming out of that place."

Frohwirth said he likes the American League because it has predominantly right-handed batters and more power hitters swinging from the heels than the National League.

His ball sinks, and he can run it in on right-handed batters, jamming them. He has more trouble with left-handers (.257 average).

"And there's not so much running going on in this league, and less AstroTurf," he said. "That makes it easier to pitch."

He even throws sidearm on bunts and toppers that he has to field.

"I used to be told to throw overhand," he said. "But I'd end up throwing it over people's heads. The ball would sail. So I found out it was better to stay down."

Laying low has been the secret of his success.

"If we're seeing the way Todd Frohwirth is going to pitch, he's going to be here," said Oates. "We'll find a role for him."

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