McDonald hopes to alter balance of Red Sox power In 1990, Boston had his number

April 15, 1992|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

BOSTON -- Right-hander Ben McDonald is looking forward to his second start of the 1992 season. Who wouldn't be after opening the year with a two-hit shutout? But he'll be facing a hard-hitting team in a hitters' ballpark when he takes the mound today at Fenway Park.

The Boston Red Sox have not been kind to the Orioles right-hander, who faced them twice during his rookie half-season in 1990 and did not have a great deal of success.

McDonald gave up nine earned runs over 7 1/3 innings in those two starts, a performance that contrasted sharply with his other 13 starts that year. He was one of the most overpowering pitchers in baseball during his first half-season in the majors, except when it came to the Red Sox.

In his first appearance at Fenway Park, he lasted 3 2/3 innings and gave up five earned runs on four hits and four walks in a 13-2 loss. He turned in a similar outing against the Red Sox at Memorial Stadium a couple of weeks later and has not faced them since.

"I had two bad outings in 15 starts, and they were both against these guys," McDonald said. "I don't think it was so much them as I had control problems. I can't explain it, but it wasn't anything they did. I just couldn't throw strikes."

McDonald couldn't do much of anything right last year. He started the season on the disabled list with a sore elbow and ended it on the sidelines with a sore shoulder. In between, he turned in a mediocre performance that cast doubt on the glowing scouting reports that had followed him out of Louisiana State.

He was 6-8 with a 4.84 ERA, his performance undoubtedly affected by nagging elbow and shoulder problems. The club was so intent on avoiding similar problems this year that pitching coach Dick Bosman closely monitored McDonald's off-season conditioning program and handled him carefully this spring.

The early returns have been encouraging. McDonald had a solid spring, and he opened the season with an outstanding performance against the Cleveland Indians on Thursday at Oriole Park. He tied a career high with nine strikeouts on the way to his third career shutout.

He'll have a tougher assignment today. The Indians were shut out three times in the first week of play, and they were held to no hits in a game they won. The Red Sox feature a quality offensive lineup that will not be so easy to intimidate.

"I got a pretty good look at them in spring training," McDonald said. "They've got different guys than they had in 1990. I remember more about them this spring. I faced them twice in the last three weeks."

He cannot remember Fenway fondly, but he was more a victim of his lack of control than of the park's cozy dimensions.

"I remember walking guys," he said. "I got in trouble with my control. I walked four guys in that game, and it got me in trouble. When you walk guys there, they always seem to come around and score.

"It [Fenway Park] can be intimidating, but it's really a pretty big park, except right down the lines. I'm not going to change my ballgame for the ballpark. I've got to just go out and throw strikes."

McDonald will have some momentum. The Indians might be one of the worst clubs in the majors, but he said the stuff he took to the mound Thursday was among the best he has ever had.

"I'm excited," he said. "My control is there. My velocity is there. But I can't say that I'm going to have the stuff like I had the other night. That ranks right up there with the top three or four games I've pitched."

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