Bosman pitch: basic but better Coach aims higher,but keeps focus on fundamentals

February 19, 1993|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Staff Writer

For the Orioles' pitching staff, the quest for a higher level begins today by going back to square one.

A total of 20 pitchers, 14 on the roster and six invitees, were scheduled to begin workouts this morning at the club's Twin Lakes Park facility in Sarasota, Fla. The early days will be devoted to basics before pitching coach Dick Bosman starts developing a staff he hopes, and expects, to be better than the one that helped the Orioles win 89 games last year.

"It will be pretty general early," Bosman said shortly after arriving from his home in nearby Clearwater. "We'll work mostly on conditioning and the basic fundamentals that are real important to [manager] Johnny [Oates]."

After the normal aches-and-pain stage passes, the pitchers who were in camp a year ago will find a lot of similarity to that program. "Once we get going, we'll concentrate on areas where we weren't good [last season]," said Bosman.

Heading that list is a familiar subject. "We have to work on defensing the steal," said Bosman. "It's something we have to improve.

"It's do-able, and they know it. It's a big priority for me," Bosman said.

Improving against the stolen base was also a priority last year, indication enough that the Orioles were not satisfied with the results. The impact was lessened, however, by the overall improvement in the quality of the pitching.

Getting hitters out is still the best way to defend against the stolen base, and the Orioles were much better at that than in the two previous years. Despite some holes that have to be filled, Bosman feels the staff effectiveness will improve again.

"I expect us to get better for the simple reason that we've benefited from a year in the big leagues," said Bosman. "And that includes Rick Sutcliffe.

"The young guys like [Mike] Mussina, [Ben] McDonald, [Arthur] Rhodes got a chance to prove to themselves that they can go out and win. For Sutcliffe, it was important for him to find out he could go out and do what he did after missing two years. In that regard, I think he benefited as much as the younger guys."

Bosman does not envision any drastic overhauls, but hopes improvement will come with fine tuning of the young starters. "We won't be doing earth-shattering things," he said. "We might want to add a pitch or eliminate one here or there, maybe even with Sut, but it won't be anything drastic."

There are some natural questions about the four starters who appear set in the rotation. Can Mussina duplicate his first full year in the big leagues? Is McDonald ready for a breakthrough year? Will Rhodes continue to improve? Will Sutcliffe's arm hold up?

"Mussina has a real good approach to the way he looks at a season," said Bosman. "Very logically, I don't think he should change anything.

"Last year, we sat down and I asked him if he thought he was better than a .500 pitcher. He said, 'Yeah,' and I pointed out that he was going to get five starts every month. If he won three a month, that's 18 wins.

"It turns out he got 18 wins. I don't think you should look at it any other way. If he goes about it the same way, with the same attitude and the same goals, I think that's the best way to approach it."

McDonald stayed healthy and made 35 starts last year, but Bosman cautions against automatically assuming a breakthrough year is on the horizon. "You can't expect just because he had a healthy year last season that he's going to just show up and win 25 games," said Bosman.

"He and I have set up a goal of 15 or 16 wins. Anything more than that would be a nice bonus. He's still developing and getting better."

Rhodes likewise has developed slowly as a professional, but he was drafted out of high school and is still only 23 years old. A year ago, it was like somebody turned on a light switch and the pieces started to fall into place.

"We just have to keep things on an even keel with Arthur," said Bosman. "He seems a lot more confident, a lot more relaxed to me now. In the times we've worked together this winter, he's shown that he's retained an awful lot from last year. He seems more mature, and I'm excited about all of that."

Another young left-hander about whom the pitching coach is excited is rookie reliever Brad Pennington. "We didn't see that much of him [in spring training] last year," said Bosman. "From everything you hear about him, you know he throws hard enough [95 mph], so it's just a matter of control."

Late-inning relief ace Gregg Olson again will get a lot of spring training attention from Bosman. The two have been discussing the possibility of adding a slider to the sinker he developed a year ago, his above-average fastball and trademark curveball.

"We spent a lot of quality time in Baltimore [this winter] working on his approach," said Bosman. "I think Gregg has grown up a lot. He's matured enough that he's gotten the stubborn streak out of him. And he's still learning. That's something we tend to forget because he's been around a few years. He's still only 26 years old."

Even though the Orioles are a long way from settling on a fifth starter and have to find somebody to replace Storm Davis, either in the bullpen or starting rotation, Bosman is a lot more confident going into this season than he was a year ago.

"A year ago, Alan Mills wasn't even on our team," he said. "We were looking for three or four starters, not one.

"I'm excited about the season, about watching the way this is all coming together," said Bosman.

The game plan is simple. Square one today, a higher level by Opening Day.

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