O's Frohwirth pitches a fit Ump's call sparks heated reaction from reliever

August 20, 1992|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Staff Writer

Portions of the light banks malfunctioned at Oriole Park last night, but, as far as Todd Frohwirth was concerned, total darkness descended in the fourth inning.

A grand slam by Edgar Martinez against a fuming Frohwirth hoisted the Seattle Mariners into a 7-2 lead and touched off a wild confrontation with plate umpire Larry Barnett that got Frohwirth tossed from the game.

The Mariners went on to stave off the Orioles, 10-8, and hand them their fourth consecutive defeat, equaling Baltimore's longest slide of the season.

Normally one of the mildest mannered Orioles, Frohwirth did some tossing of his own, flinging the ball against the backstop and his cap and glove into the nether reaches of the infield before he reached the dugout in a dramatic exit that would have piqued the interest of Hollywood script writers.

"At that point, I felt we lost the game," Frohwirth explained. "I threw two sliders on the outside corner that were both strikes [to Martinez, the only hitter he faced].

"So, I knew I couldn't throw a breaking ball again. He was going to call it a ball. The umpire wasn't giving me an opportunity to get him out."

Martinez' first career slam was simply too big a burden to overcome by the Orioles, who joined the Mariners to ignore the inoperable lights in a 23-hit, five-homer spree that wasn't decided until the final pitch.

The Orioles had the potential tying run at the plate in the eighth and ninth innings, but couldn't quite climb the mountain.

Still, manager John Oates drew upon the positive after the defeat, which didn't cost his team any ground in its battle to overtake Toronto, a loser at Milwaukee last night.

"The last two days I didn't think we went about it the right way, but tonight we played with that little fire, I was much encouraged from what I saw," he said.

"But you make your own breaks. We're just not championship caliber right now. You can't make the kind of physical and mental errors we're making. We made far too many tonight."

Martinez, the American League's batting leader and a .485 hitter against the Orioles this season, skirted the controversy, saying he didn't know if the 1-2 pitch from Frohwirth was over the plate.

"The pitcher thought it was a strike, the umpire thought it was a ball," said Martinez. "It's an appearance thing."

However, Frohwirth had no doubt and said viewing the sequence on television replays in the clubhouse only confirmed his view.

"He probably missed about 10 or 15 after that," contended Frohwirth. "I'm the kind of guy who takes the ball and gets back on the rubber. That time, I just couldn't do it."

Oates said every player "has to do what he has to do" in exonerating Frohwirth's behavior. "These things happen in the heat of the battle. Nothing surprises me."

He would not speculate on whether his submarining reliever would face additional disiciplinary action, simply saying "I'm not the commissioner or the president [of the league]."

The result was Oates had to bring in Alan Mills, Saturday's scheduled starter, in long relief and Mills went on to pitch 3 2/3 innings. That will knock Mills out of the start against the Oakland A's.

"We have an alternative plan," he said. "We'll have another starter coming in here."

One possibility is Richie Lewis, who was called up from Rochester for a spot start against Boston earlier. He threw a complete-game two-hitter for the Red Wings in his last outing.

The Orioles certainly produced enough offense to win this game against a team with the worst record in the majors but a 17-8 edge against Baltimore in their last 25 meetings.

Mike Devereaux came to within one of his career high with his 18th homer and Brady Anderson and Leo Gomez also clouted two-run shots.

But Seattle had a little more clout, thanks to Martinez' boomer which turned Frohwirth into a tiger.

"I don't really know what happens after this," Frohwirth said of potential fining or suspension. "I don't really care. If the umpire is not going to call strikes, I've got to say something.

"It just got carried away. But hopefully, the justice will be that someone in the league with make them bear down. Give them a grading system, like we get graded every day.

"I'm still upset. The score is 3-2, the best hitter in the league is up and I've got to throw a fast ball down the middle. Is that an out? I don't think so."

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