Frohwirth's fortunes going down under

June 22, 1992|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Staff Writer

The conventional wisdom is that he's tough to hit because batters rarely see his down-under style and have difficulty adapting to it.

Todd Frohwirth doesn't buy that theory and lately, neither do American League hitters.

They have been catching up to Frohwirth with increasing frequency, garnering 20 hits in his past 10 innings. Of the past 25 runners he has inherited, 12 have scored and almost half of the past 57 hitters he has faced (25) have reached base.

But Frohwirth and manager Johnny Oates are not panicking, attributing the slump to a fallow period all pitchers encounter during a season.

"He's throwing the ball fine," said Oates. "He's just not getting good results. Last night [Saturday] was the hardest he's been hit."

Oates had Frohwirth relieve Rick Sutcliffe in the sixth inning of a 9-5 loss to the New York Yankees and allowed him to go the rest of the way. The Yankees collected six hits against him, four by left-handed batters.

Normally, Frohwirth would not face a slew of left-handers such as the Yankees lineup features. But with only Mike Flanagan available to counter the lefties, some unusual things have happened in the Orioles bullpen this season.

"Last year he didn't do very well against lefties [.223 opposing average vs. .169 by right-handers], but this year he has been much better against left-handers than right-handers [until lefties went 4-for-6 Saturday]," Oates said. "It's just the opposite."

The manager says Frohwirth still is more effective against right-handed hitters and will use him mostly that way, but at certain times, he will have to face lefties.

Frohwirth is trying to find the reasons for his mini-skid by 'N throwing more on the side and watching films.

"I don't really have an answer," he said. "At first a lot of cheap hits were getting through this year, bloopers and high choppers.

"I thought I made some pretty good pitches in this latest game, but some sinkers are not sinking quite as much. As long as they are sinking, I get people out."

Frohwirth was not worried until this weekend and pointed out that luck played a part in his good fortune of 1991 when he was second to Cal Ripken in the Most Valuable Oriole voting.

"My whole year wasn't all throwing great pitches," he said. "Now this season I've had a bad month and I'm saying 'why wasn't that ball hit two inches closer to Leo [Gomez]?' Maybe the luck is evening out."

He feels healthy, his arm is sound and he is pitching without the stiffness in his back that plagued him part of last year.

As for his almost underarm pitching style, Frohwirth said hitters customarily are going to face "three or four different styles in every game. That was more important in the days when starters went almost the whole way and then a guy like me would come in."

Frohwirth says he is offering too many enticing pitches with his sinker staying up in the strike zone.

"This is the most hits I've ever given up anywhere," he said. "But I'm still pitching average baseball. If this is the worst I can pitch, it's a lot better than most guys out there."

Early in the season, the bullpen wasn't getting much work with the starters thriving. Frohwirth needs work to prosper.

"The more I throw generally, the better I am," he said. "That's why I thought the beginning was when I'd struggle. I thought I'd turn it on with more innings. But it hasn't worked that way."

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