Sutcliffe eager to do his part in turnaround Says each player must look in mirror

April 16, 1993|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

It is a time of clubhouse lectures and Kangaroo Courts, but veteran pitcher Rick Sutcliffe has grown tired of all the talk. He would rather take matters into his own hands, as he will do tonight when the Orioles open a three-game series against the California Angels at Camden Yards.

The team is in turmoil. The Orioles have opened the season with six losses in eight games. Sutcliffe knows better than to think he can straighten things out by himself, but he has been around long enough to know how to handle a tough situation.

"The only way to approach it is to look in the mirror and try to see what you can do to help," he said. "You have to focus on what your job is. That eliminates the finger-pointing and dissension. If you focus on your job, you eliminate the little problems that teams have from time to time."

The little things have become a big problem for the Orioles, who have lost several games that they could have -- and sometimes should have -- won. The club broke a three-game losing streak with Wednesday night's 6-5 victory over the Texas Rangers, but it will take more than that to recover from a very frustrating start.

"Every club in baseball is going to go through what we're going through," Sutcliffe said. "The clubs that win are the ones that shut it down before it becomes major. The only way to do that is to do your job."

There is a tendency to try and do more than that when things are not going well, but the Orioles are living proof that trying too hard can be just as destructive as not trying hard enough. How else do you explain the club's 0-for-31 slump with runners in scoring position the first week?

"I think sometimes hitters try to do too much with one given at-bat and pitchers want to throw a shutout," Sutcliffe said. "We don't need a shutout. We don't need three home runs. Sometimes, all you need is one little hit with two outs."

The situation is far from hopeless. The Orioles dropped to the bottom of the American League East standings in a hurry, but they were only four games behind the first-place Boston Red Sox going into last night.

Sutcliffe will try to build on Wednesday's victory when he faces Angels right-hander John Farrell tonight. He knows that a successful homestand would go a long way to calm a panicky public, but he doesn't want to get ahead of himself.

"You just have to take it day to day," Sutcliffe said. "I don't look a month from now. I look at each game day and look for improvement. And I know one thing . . . there's nothing better for this club than to get home."

There is every reason to believe that significant improvement is just around the corner. The Orioles' beefed-up offensive lineup still is not operating at full capacity, but the confidence level of the hitters appeared to be on the rise even before the club jumped out to a big lead and held on to win Wednesday night.

"I had that feeling," said first baseman Glenn Davis, who broke out of an early-season slump with four RBI. "I know that we're a much better club than what we're showing."

There is plenty of offensive potential that remains untapped. Center fielder Mike Devereaux is batting just .211, though he leads the club with six RBI. Right fielder Chito Martinez, who did not have a hit in April last year, does not have one yet this year. Third baseman Leo Gomez is batting .364, but has driven home only one run in his first six games.

The pitching staff has started slowly, too. Right-hander Mike Mussina, who led the league in winning percentage last year, is winless in his first two starts. Sutcliffe and Ben McDonald each split their first two decisions, but neither has pitched impressively. Left-hander Arthur Rhodes turned in an adequate performance in his only start, but he was not overpowering, and Fernando Valenzuela was knocked around in his first start as an Oriole.

It doesn't stop there. The events of the past 11 days have fueled more Gregg Olson hysteria, though one blown save and one pinch home run do not make a bad season.

"If I listened to what the fans and some of the media is saying, I would have no confidence and no ego," said Olson, who survived similar lumps last year to finish with 36 saves. "You just have to go about your business. You know what it takes to win. You know that it takes 162 games and that there are 154 left."

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