Former Orioles manager Earl Weaver used to call reliever Don Stanhouse "Half-Pack" because Stanhouse's penchant for adding drama to late-inning situations drove the manager to smoke half a pack of cigarettes during his relief stint.
Current Orioles manager Johnny Oates is determined not to let his closer, Gregg Olson, drive him to nicotine, no matter how hairy Olson's appearances get.
"I don't smoke, and I'm not going to start smoking for any reason," Oates said after Olson saved yesterday's 3-2 win over the Detroit Tigers at Oriole Park.
Oates added: "I do want to get to a point where I can sit back and my heart doesn't miss a beat. But if his heart can take it, mine can."
In his three seasons as the team's closer, Olson has added spice to situations that already were a tad spicy.
"I guess I don't know what a 1-2-3 inning is," said Olson, who allowed a ninth-inning hit to Cecil Fielder and a walk to Tony Phillips before striking out Rob Deer and Travis Fryman to end the game and record his second save.
Oates said Olson, who struggled with his curve last season, developed a new pitch, a sinker, during winter instructional league play at the urging of Oates and pitching coach Dick Bosman, and has begun to use it to set up both his curve and his fastball.
"Gregg is not a ground-ball pitcher," said Oates. "Now, he's got something to get a ground ball for a double play if he puts someone on. It's not a pitch he has to throw all the time. It's a pitch to set up the other two."
The pitch has had mixed success. Toronto's Pat Borders homered off Olson's sinker to tie a game the Blue Jays won, 4-3, April 10. However, Olson got Deer to strike out yesterday and Saturday with his new pitch.
Still, for someone whose job security depends, in part, on how effectively Olson shuts opponents down, Oates seems resigned to the reliever's high-wire act.
"I don't care if it's 1-2-3 or the bases loaded with nobody out, as long as when the [bullpen] gate is open, the game's over," Oates said.
The last shall be first
Former Orioles catcher Mickey Tettleton, who hit the last home run at Memorial Stadium last October, goes into the Camden Yards record book as the first player to hit a homer to right field.
Speaking of lasts, in the Detroit series, the bottom third of the Orioles lineup is hitting .379 (11-for-29), with three homers, five RBI and six runs.
Breaking the place in
The Orioles are 5-1 in their new park, the best record for a team in a new stadium since the Houston Astros won their first nine at the Astrodome in 1965.
The Orioles have a home ERA of 1.00 (six earned runs in 54 innings) and are limiting the Tigers to a .181 batting average (17-for-94).
Tettleton's fourth-inning homer, over the out-of-town scoreboard, broke a 23 1/3 -inning stretch in which the Orioles had not given up an extra-base hit.
Before Tettleton's home run, Deer's triple and Fryman's seventh-inning homer, Orioles pitchers had not allowed more than a single since the Boston Red Sox's Mo Vaughn doubled in the sixth inning Wednesday.
Last season, the Tigers didn't go two straight games without at least one extra-base hit.
Detroit shortstop Alan Trammell had been the only regular who hadn't struck out until Bob Milacki got him twice yesterday.
Something to fall back on
Reliever Todd Frohwirth has an off-season job coaching the boys junior varsity basketball team at Marquette High School in Milwaukee.
Frohwirth, a Milwaukee native, said he had been coaching boys and girls grade-school teams for about seven years. Three of the players he coached on an eighth-grade team last season will be playing for him this winter.
"I'm feeding them. Isn't that illegal?" said Frohwirth, who describes his coaching approach as "mellow."
Frohwirth, who attended Messmer High, said he probably won't try to institute a system at Marquette, but rather will "do what I'm told," by the varsity coach. That's a good idea, considering that Marquette has won 10 state titles in the past 25 years.
And when does Frohwirth expect to begin coaching full time?
"It's going to be soon. Probably when I get released here."
Under the weather
Umpire Jim McKean, the crew chief, will be replaced in tonight's series finale. He missed Saturday's game and left yesterday and Friday with a throat and ear infection.