Lewis aims to crowd into bullpen spot

EXTRA INNINGS

March 03, 1992|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

SARASOTA, Fla. -- The Orioles bullpen appeared to be set long before the club opened spring workouts, but newcomer Jim Lewis is not entirely out of the picture.

Lewis, 27, a right-hander who was acquired in the four-player deal that sent third baseman Craig Worthington to the San Diego Padres, has done nothing but impress manager John Oates since the club opened spring workouts 11 days ago.

"He could be my closer in the first and third [exhibition] games," Oates said yesterday. "He's throwing the ball really well."

The Orioles apparently knew what they were getting. Oates talked with former major-league pitcher Jon Matlack -- Lewis' Class AAA pitching coach -- before the deal was completed. He liked what he heard.

"He told me [Lewis] had a good sinker and a good changeup," Oates said. "He also mentioned a palmball or forkball we haven't seen yet. Maybe he'll break that out later."

What impressed Oates the most was Lewis' resilient arm. Only twice all season was he too fatigued to pitch, despite a heavy work schedule that included 48 minor-league appearances and 12 in the majors.

"I'm one of those guys who got lucky and got a good arm that can bounce back," Lewis said. "I like throwing every day. I really like being a relief pitcher."

There might be a place in the bullpen for a pitcher who can work in a variety of relief roles. There also might be a long list of candidates for the job. But Lewis has made a solid first impression.

He is grateful for the opportunity. The Padres had a veteran pitching staff that would have been tough to crack. The Orioles appear to be set, but Lewis could move up the depth chart in a hurry if someone falls by the wayside.

The deal made him the third former Padre to join the Orioles this spring. Dennis Rasmussen and Darrell Sherman also spent last season in the San Diego organization.

Lewis traded places with a player he also was familiar with. He played against Worthington in the California Junior College championship game in 1985.

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