Young nucleus is growing source of joy for pitching coach Bosman O's '92 maturation lifts future hopes

October 04, 1992|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

CLEVELAND -- Pitching coach Dick Bosman is bullish on th future of the Orioles' pitching staff, even if the makeup of the 1993 club is not yet known.

The upcoming expansion draft and the uncertain contract status of veteran pitchers Rick Sutcliffe and Craig Lefferts might be unsettling, but the youthful nucleus of the club's starting rotation isn't going anywhere -- except in the right direction.

"We've made a lot of progress in a lot of areas," Bosman said. "It might not always show on paper, but it has been very encouraging. There are a lot of areas where we could have done better, but we've had some real nice years out of some individuals."

Right-hander Ben McDonald, who is scheduled to pitch the season finale today, is one of them, even though his numbers are not particularly compelling. He is 13-13 with a 4.40 ERA, but Bosman feels he has made great strides in the first injury-free season of his young career.

"He's one of those guys that you're not going to see it all right away," Bosman said. "But I've seen a lot of growth, not just physically, but mentally. He hasn't fallen into a mold like a lot of young pitchers who aren't comfortable doing anything different. I see him out there trying new things and getting people out with the things we've been working on."

McDonald still is feeling his way around the major leagues -- still trying to decide how to go about the business of being a dominant pitcher.

"He's still probably looking for a modus operandi as far as how he's going to go out there," Bosman added. "It's a case of, 'Am I going to be dead serious and sit at my locker wearing a headset all day [a la Sutcliffe] or am I going to be lighthearted or somewhere in between. That's all part of learning what's best for him."

Bosman also has been impressed with the maturation of left-hander Arthur Rhodes, who was the starting pitcher in yesterday's 7-1 victory. Rhodes was lost at the major-league level when he came up last season, but he has shown plenty of the promise that has followed him up through the club's minor-league system.

"He's another one who's made a lot of progress as far as command of his stuff," Bosman said. "He's more relaxed on the mound and that has helped him to be able to think properly and be creative out there. If you'd try to compare it with what we saw in spring training, it's amazing. But you never know. That's one of the things that makes this job interesting."

Then there is right-hander Mike Mussina, who has made Bosman's job easy. He went 18-5 with a 2.54 ERA to put his name under consideration for the American League Cy Young Award. He hasn't shown any dramatic improvement, but only because he has been a consistent performer since the day he arrived in the major leagues last August.

The three of them comprise the youthful nucleus of an Orioles rotation that should be in place for at least the next three seasons. Bosman expects each to continue to improve, and he doesn't plan to leave it to chance this winter.

"The off-season will be important for these young guys," he said. "They need to continue to train and work out and arrive at spring training as ready or more ready than they were last year. Most of them will be with me in Florida or with [conditioning coach] Allan Johnson in Baltimore. Not that you need to stand over them, but it's good for them to be around other guys who are doing it."

Manager Johnny Oates has been hesitant to talk about the future of the club, partly because some organizational decisions are still to be made and partly because the upcoming expansion draft makes the makeup of the roster uncertain, but Bosman does not have to be quite so constrained.

The expansion draft leaves several members of the pitching staff in limbo until Nov. 17, but it does not appear that the Orioles pitching staff will take a serious hit from the two new National League clubs.

The nucleus of the pitching staff is not in danger and the club has enough depth to handle the loss of a set-up man or a long reliever.

"I have no clue who we're going to lose," Bosman said, "but I can't see where we're going to get hurt that badly pitching-wise."

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