For Valenzuela, Oates, not a night to remember

April 15, 1993|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Fernando Valenzuela made his long-awaited return to the mound as a starting pitcher last night, but it wasn't exactly a sentimental journey. He blew up in the early innings and manager Johnny Oates blew up in the clubhouse after the Orioles moved to the brink of a three-game sweep with an 8-3 loss to the Texas Rangers.

The 32-year-old left-hander, whose comeback has captured the imagination of baseball fans all over, did nothing to impress the Rangers during an ugly 2 1/3 -inning performance at Arlington Stadium.

Valenzuela gave up seven runs on five hits on the way to a lopsided defeat that left Oates wondering what he has to do to get the struggling Orioles turned around. He locked the clubhouse door for 20 minutes after the game and seared the team with a tirade on its lackluster play during the first nine days of the new season.

The club's 1-6 start equals the second-worst seven-game start in Orioles history. They went 0-7 in the course of their 21-game losing streak at the start of 1988 and went 1-6 in 1955 and 1984.

Valenzuela was not the answer, but he wasn't supposed to be. The stakes had gone up considerably since he won a place in the starting rotation with a strong performance in spring training. The club entered the season needing a spot starter, but took the field last night needing someone -- anyone -- to put an end to the season-opening slump.

It was the kind of situation that used to be made for Valenzuela, whose clutch performances in the 1980s made him one of the most dependable big-game pitchers in the National League. But he was not equal to it in his first major-league start since 1991.

"Everything I did went wrong," Valenzuela said after the first-place Rangers went to 6-1.

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