Healthy Poole eager to see what he can give O's over a full season


January 31, 1993|By PETERF SCHMUCK

It was just about a year ago that left-hander Jim Poole realized that something wasn't right. He had come on strong in the second half of the 1991 season to establish himself in the Orioles bullpen. He was looking forward to his first full season in the major leagues, and so was the team.

That's when his shoulder started to hurt.

Poole went to spring training last year with tendinitis. He tried to get ready for the season, but he would not pitch again in an Orioles uniform until Sept. 8. This year, he is ready to make up for lost time.

"It's a new start in the sense that I don't think I have '91 to back me up as much," Poole said, "but the fact that I had '91 and the last month of '92 may make them expect a little more. I've shown them what I can do when I'm healthy."

He has never done anything but pitch well for the Orioles at the major-league level. When he came up in 1991, he pitched in 24 games as a left-handed setup man and had a 2.00 ERA in 36 innings. Last September, Poole appeared in six games and did not allow an earned run.

Manager Johnny Oates has been impressed with the healthy Jim Poole. The front office apparently has some confidence in him, too, if the decisions to let go of left-handed relievers Mike Flanagan and Pat Clements are any indication.

The club has signed left-handed journeymen Steve Searcy, Jamie Moyer and Brian DuBois to add minor-league depth, but Poole and rookie Brad Pennington appear to be the leading left-handed candidates for the major-league relief staff.

"I think they are counting on me," Poole said, "but at the same time, they have signed three minor-league left-handers. Yes, they are looking for me to be a factor, but they are also covering themselves. Basically, I take nothing for granted."

Dropping in class

Third baseman Kelly Gruber had been silent for six weeks about the trade that sent him from the world champion Toronto Blue Jays to the

long-suffering California Angels, and he couldn't entirely hide his disappointment even at his news conference in Anaheim on Thursday.

Gruber said he was so shell-shocked when he heard that he would be going from the best team in baseball to one of the worst that he needed time for it to sink in.

"There's a certain amount of rejection when you're traded, and the worst was going through my mind," he said. "I mean, it didn't really register that I was going to the California Angels. I couldn't believe it was happening."

No doubt, the Angels would have rather had him express joy at returning to U.S. soil, but after the public outcry that followed the Jim Abbott trade, they were probably thrilled to get even so-so publicity.

Padres rumors

There has been speculation that San Diego Padres general manager Joe McIlvaine is not long for his job. The five-year contract that he signed before the 1991 season includes a halfway club option, meaning he could be relieved of his duties at the All-Star break or kept through the 1995 season.

The rumor mill has cranked out three possible replacements -- new assistant GM Larry Doughty, scouting director Reggie Waller and former Orioles scouting director John Barr, who is an assistant GM in charge of baseball operations.

No hard feelings

Rule V draftee Sherman Obando was in his native Panama during the U.S. invasion three years ago, but he said that the military action to depose dictator Manuel Noriega had no effect on the country's love of American baseball.

"I don't think anybody has hard feelings about baseball in America," he said. "They love baseball."

Obando hopes to follow in the footsteps of several other Panamanian players who have made it big in the United States and become national heroes at home in the process. The best-known Panamanian player is Hall of Famer Rod Carew, but former Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Manny Sanguillen and -- more recently -- outfielder Roberto Kelly have become household names in Panama.

Trivia quiz

What former Oriole holds the major-league record for most assists in a game by a shortstop?

Rule V revisited

Rule V revisited

What kind of chance does a Rule V draftee have of hitting it big at the major-league level? It's a long shot, but it happens. Just ask George Bell or Bobby Bonilla, both of whom were selected in the Rule V draft and went on to be superstars.

The Orioles obviously are hoping Obando can do the same, but they might have to sacrifice a place on the major-league roster to see it happen.

"We think he's an offensive player," assistant general manager Doug Melvin said, "but I don't want to put extra pressure on him. Sometimes with Rule V guys, you have to be patient for a year. Look at Bonilla or Bell or Dave Hollins."

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