MINNEAPOLIS -- The Arthur Rhodes experiment has not gone particularly well, but Baltimore Orioles manager John Oates said yesterday that the audition must go on.
Rhodes gave up seven runs over three-plus innings in his third major-league start, and the Minnesota Twins went on to trash the Orioles, 14-3, in the series finale at the Metrodome.
The 21-year-old left-hander has lasted four innings or less in each of his first three starts, losing two of them and running up a 13.09 ERA in the process. He threw decently for three innings yesterday, but gave up five runs on five hits and a walk without getting an out in the fourth.
More growing pains for the pitching youth movement.
"I thought he threw the ball very well for three innings," Oates said. "He got a little predictable in the second and then the roof caved in in the fourth. But no doubt in my mind, that's the best he has thrown in three starts."
The Orioles were curious to see how Rhodes would respond to major-league competition. The early returns have not been very impressive, but Oates does not seem concerned that the string of unsuccessful performances might have a negative impact on Rhodes over the long term.
"Some pretty good pitchers have had bad innings," Oates said. "We've got to quit pampering these kids. They are going to go out there, and if they pitch well, I'm going to pat them on the back, and if they don't pitch well, I'm still going to pat them on the back.
"They're men. They should be able to handle it. If they can't, then go and do something else. I shouldn't have to hold their hands."
Rhodes had the misfortune to be matched up against one of the best offensive lineups in baseball and one of the best pitchers in the game. Right-hander Jack Morris took a shutout into the sixth inning before an error by third baseman Scott Leius led to three unearned runs.
Morris pitched seven innings and gave up six hits to record his 16th victory and drop his ERA to 3.74. Reliever Mark Guthrie pitched the final two innings and gave up just one hit, but you don't get a save for protecting an 11-run lead.
The Twins had taken a two-run lead in the second inning on back-to-back doubles by Brian Harper and Shane Mack and a sacrifice fly by Gene Larkin. They broke the game open when Rhodes walked the leadoff man in the fourth and gave up five straight singles.
Control problems undermined Rhodes in his first two starts, but he walked only one batter this time. He threw the ball over the plate and the Twins hit it all over the park.
"I went out there and threw my best game against a hot team, so you know they're hitting everything," Rhodes said. "I threw the ball in the strike zone. I'm not out there trying to blow anybody away."
The Orioles are holding out hope that Rhodes matures fast enough to win a place in the starting rotation next spring, but he'll have to come on very strong during the next five weeks to avoid spending at least part of the 1992 season at Class AAA.
"I have a whole lot of learning to do," Rhodes said. "I need to face more teams and learn the hitters. I'll learn from that if I just go out there and do my job."
He wasn't the only one to take a beating yesterday. Right-hander Anthony Telford came on in relief and gave up a leadoff home run to Harper in the fifth and a three-run shot to Chili Davis in the sixth.
Reliever Mark Williamson came off the disabled list to pitch the eighth, and looked very much like a guy who hadn't pitched competitively in 18 days. He gave up three runs, including a two-run homer to pinch hitter Paul Sorrento.
Morris gave up a leadoff triple to Brady Anderson in the first inning, but worked out of that jam and gave up only one other hit before the Orioles' three-run sixth.
His 16th victory was a foregone conclusion when Leius mishandled a two-out ground ball off the bat of Glenn Davis. Anderson scored on the play, and Chito Martinez followed with his 10th home run of the season -- a towering shot to left-center field.
That cut the Twins' lead to five, but Chili Davis piled it on with his three-run shot in the bottom of the inning. In his first year with the Twins, he leads the team with 27 homers and 85 RBI and figures to get some votes for American League Most Valuable Player.
The 14 runs matched a team-high for the Twins, who ran up 16 hits. Harper and Shane Mack had three apiece. Kirby Puckett and Gene Larkin each had two.
Minnesota took eight of its 12 games against the Orioles this year. Morris had three of those eight victories.
Twins second: Harper doubled to left. Mack doubled to right, Harper scored. Leius sacrificed, first baseman Segui to second baseman Bell, Mack to third. Larkin hit sacrifice fly to center fielder Anderson, Mack scored. Gagne grounded out to shortstop C.Ripken. 2 runs, 2 hits, 0 errors, 0 left on. Twins 2, Orioles 0.