Hulett's heroics recall days of '89

MIKE LITTWIN

May 05, 1992|By MIKE LITTWIN

I don't want to say anything, but the last time anyone even mentioned Tim Hulett's name, it was 1989, and you know what happened then.

It's 1992 now. Nothing very good has happened to the Orioles, or to Hulett, in the interim. And now this. Now Tim Hulett is winning games again for the Orioles, who are winning games again.

Karma?

Well, it's something.

The Orioles are 17-8 for the first time since 1970, when Frank and Brooks and Boog were the big names, and the team won the World Series. Now, the leading hitters on the Orioles are McLemore, Hoiles, Hulett and Anderson. And they're winning. They keep on winning. And now Glenn Davis is finally coming back to a team that already leads the majors in runs per game.

They won last night when they weren't supposed to. They won when starter Bob Milacki had nothing, if you don't include trouble, against the Texas Rangers. Texas left the bases filled in the first. And in the fourth, the Orioles needed two big defensive plays -- one by Randy Milligan, one by Bill Ripken -- to cut off a rally.

It was 3-3 then and 8-5 in the end. It got that way because of Hulett, who drove in what would be the winning run on a pinch single in the seventh, and because of Hoiles, who hit a grand slam later in the inning for his seventh homer of the year, even though he's never eaten a single Froot Loop. It got that way because the Orioles, who didn't squeeze last night, scored on a double steal with Mike Devereaux stealing home.

And, mostly, it got that way because of Alan Mills.

Let me tell you about Alan Mills. He was a Roland Hemond special. Hemond is the general manager, of course, who goes to sleep each night with visions of the waiver wire dancing in his head. He loves players like Mills, the big-potential guys who languish in the minor leagues until a club gives up on them. Hemond is there to believe.

Mills is a classic case. He was in Single-A for four years with the Yankees before jumping all the way to the big leagues in 1990. He didn't make it quite all the way. And on the ninth day of this past spring training, Hemond, in his 30th trade since coming to the Orioles, got Mills for two minor-leaguers to be named.

And when Mark Williamson got hurt, Mills was called up to fill a spot. He bailed Milacki out in the fourth and pitched through the eighth. You should have seen it -- fastball, slider and a lot of zeros from the mighty Rangers.

Mills, who hadn't pitched in nine days, is 2-0, his ERA is 0.66. In 13 2/3 inings, he has allowed six hits. He was also the winning pitcher in the game that Ben McDonald gave up the back-to-back-to-back homers. These are the kinds of stories you get when teams are 17-8 and have won six in a row overall, nine in a row at home, where some people are wondering when or if they'll lose again.

"What can you say about him?" said Johnny Oates of Mills. "Three performances, and all he's given up is a solo homer to Stanka-Ruth [Andy Stankiewicz]. He's shown great velocity and he's throwing strikes.

"I'll tell you what -- we didn't have any right to expect as much from him as we've gotten."

When Mills came into the clubhouse, Milacki walked over to him and said, "Outstanding." He also said, "Thanks."

He meant it, too. Milacki has been the only disappointment on the starting staff, but there was Mills to pick him up. He wears 75, a number you don't see too often in the big leagues. And he says: "I'm just trying to do the best that I can. I don't want to get too high or too low. It's a long season. We've only played 25 games." In other words, he's happy to be here.

Mills' story is the kind of story Hulett was in 1989. He came to the Orioles as a free agent no one else wanted and was dispatched to Rochester. He got the call in late August and drove in nine runs in his first 13 games and nine more in the last 11 games of the season when the Orioles were locked in their dramatic dance with the Blue Jays.

A utility player who doesn't get many chances at big moments, Hulett got a bases-loaded triple Sunday and the pinch single yesterday. His batting average is .308, and he has seven RBI in 39 at-bats.

The amazing thing about this Orioles start is that Cal Ripken has not yet gotten hot and Glenn Davis has not yet gotten his uniform dirty. The Orioles decided not to send Davis out on a rehab assignment but to ease him in with the big club. It's a perfect situation for Davis, who won't be asked to save the day. The days and nights are pretty good for the Orioles right now. The team is scoring plenty of runs without him. All he has to do is fit in. Leave the rest to Hoiles and Hulett and Devereaux and the guys.

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