CLEVELAND -- According to all of the principals involved, Mike Flanagan's recent dose of misfortune is just that, and not the result of any physical problems.
"I could use a little good luck," the left-handed reliever said yesterday, when asked whether he had a cure for snake bite. At least his latest misadventure had nothing to do with control, or lack of same.
It was caused by a simple malfunction -- not being able to extract the ball from his glove on a squeeze bunt by the Cleveland Indians' Thomas Howard, and then throwing wildly. The play probably cost the Orioles three runs in a game they ultimately lost by 7-5, and it left Flanagan groping to find his way out of the darkness.
The day after his latest bout with frustration, Flanagan was able to find a positive note -- one of the few for the Orioles in the last five days of a road trip that concluded with a 3-4 record. "I was seeing the plate and just thinking about throwing strikes and getting a ground ball," he said.
Even though he threw only three pitches, Flanagan said, he "felt more comfortable," and now he's hoping that today's day off will help him get straightened out. "Sometimes it's a case of maybe throwing too much, trying to find a groove, and then backing off," said Flanagan, who has been searching for the lost release point in his delivery. "Hopefully, this day off will be what I need."
Flanagan's extraordinary wildness last Saturday night in Detroit, the heels of earlier but less flagrant episodes, alarmed team officials and created a ripple effect in the bullpen. It also instigated a natural curiosity.
Usually, when a control pitcher loses contact with home plate, it's because of some kind of arm trouble, which is not always easily admissible. Especially with someone such as Flanagan, who has a history of pitching through minor irritations.
However, at this stage of his career, it would hardly behoove Flanagan, 40, to attempt a cover-up, and he says his recent problems have no physical connections.
"No, there's nothing wrong [with his arm]," he said. "What usually happens when you're not making good pitches is that you try to throw harder," he said. "And when you do that . . ."
He didn't finish, but left the implication that the result is pitches that are even worse.
"That's particularly true if you can't go back and get that something extra," said Orioles manager Johnny Oates, who said that the club inquired about Flanagan's health.
"Three different people have talked to Mike, and he assures us that nothing is wrong," said Oates.
Flanagan, who has been around long enough to know all the tell-tale signs, just smiled when asked if he was all right physically. "It's just something that I have to work out. It'll come," he said.