There's logical reason for Birds' Bosman to be optimistic

Ken Rosenthal

October 31, 1991|By Ken Rosenthal

Harry Brecheen, George Bamberger and Ray Miller were the Orioles' only three pitching coaches from 1954 to 1985. Dick Bosman is their sixth in eight years.

Guess what?

He might be the one to survive.

Bosman, 47, inherits the worst starting rotation in the majors, but unlike the Al Jacksons and Mark Wileys before him, he's arriving at precisely the right time.

Not to discredit Bosman, who offers stronger convictions than any of his recent predecessors, but his job will become much easier if the staff improves in a logical -- repeat, logical -- manner.

One, by the natural progression of young pitchers like Jose Mesa and Ben McDonald. Two, by the necessary addition(s) of one or two veteran workhorses through free agency and trades.

Bob Milacki and Mike Mussina are the only certain starters. The gruesome foursome the front office trotted out last spring -- Mesa, Jeff Ballard, Dave Johnson and Jeff Robinson -- won only 18 of its 78 starts.

Milacki opened at Double A, but led the staff in wins (10) and innings (184). St. Louis was the only other club without a 200-inning pitcher. It countered with five 10-game winners, and a 3.69 team ERA.

The Orioles' 4.58 ERA was worst in the majors. But even if they re-sign Glenn Davis -- and from every indication, they're close -- they aren't likely to trade for starting pitching. More than one club official wants to keep Randy Milligan to alternate with Davis at first base and DH.

That leaves free-agent pitchers like Kirk McCaskill, Mike Moore and Joe Hesketh, and it's imperative the Orioles add at least one. Otherwise, the three new coaches they introduced yesterday will be about as useful as Atlanta third base coach Jimy Williams was for Lonnie Smith.

Bosman, of course, will be under far more scrutiny than hitting coachGreg Biagini and first base coach Davey Lopes, but he seems to relish the challenge. He already has spent time in the Florida Instructional League working with reliever Gregg Olson. He's considering a trip to Louisiana to visit McDonald and will go to Puerto Rico to see Arthur Rhodes.

His built-in edge is that he served four years as a minor-league pitching coach with the Orioles, the last three at Triple A Rochester. He helped refine Todd Frohwirth's submarine motion, taught Johnson the unique delivery that prevents most baserunners from even attempting to steal.

"He's an extremely hard worker," said Biagini, the former Rochester manager. "He covers everything you can possibly cover with a pitcher. And he's not afraid to get in the trenches to catch a guy and see what he's got. Many a day you don't see him come out of the bullpen until game time."

Another thing: No one will ever label Bosman a "puppet," as some Orioles described Jackson under former manager Frank Robinson. Bosman was the AL ERA champion for Washington in '69, the Chicago White Sox pitching coach in 1986-87. He has an opinion on everything.

"Nothing wrong with that," manager John Oates said, smiling. "I'd rather have a guy say two things and one be right than say nothing every time. With just about everyone he sent me this year [from Rochester], he told me exactly what would happen."

Most recently, Oates was impressed by Bosman's work with Olson, who learned "a pickoff move he couldn't wait to show me. My mouth dropped open when I saw it." Olson also experimented with a sinking fastball and a quicker delivery to the plate.

The real test will come with McDonald, and to a lesser extent, Mesa. Bosman said the idea of visiting McDonald would be to "make sure we're all on the same page" regarding offseason conditioning -- McDonald suffered injuries the last two springs -- and pitch selection.

Specifically, Bosman wants McDonald to revive his forkball and improve his changeup to complement his 90-mph fastball and erratic curve. McDonald shelved the forkball partly on the advice of Jackson, who wanted to limit him to three pitches. But speaking last night from Denham Springs, La., he seemed willing to try it again.

"Certainly I want the curveball working before the forkball," said McDonald, who threw both pitches on a consistent basis at LSU. "But I think we're going to see it next year. He's got some ideas that might help me. It's a tough pitch to control. But I'll give it a good shot before I go to spring training."

McDonald said he's "real, real excited" about working again with Bosman, whom he also described as a "big believer" in the changeup.

That leaves Mesa, the pitcher Jackson said he "lost" at midseason. Bosman said he requires constant reinforcement so that he doesn't lapse into poor mechanics.

The bullpen appears solid, so Bosman might actually have the makings of a decent staff -- if Milacki and Mussina excel, if McDonald and Mesa mature, if the front office cooperates. "You know Roland [Hemond]," Bosman said. "He's going to provide me with a bunch of stuff."

Of course, there's good stuff, and bad stuff.

All those former pitching coaches could tell you the difference.

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