Blown save provides Olson with a boost, for a change Ward's misfortune, curve aids Oriole

May 10, 1993|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Staff Writer

TORONTO -- Gregg Olson knows the feeling Duane Ward experienced yesterday. But forgive him if his sympathy cup doesn't overflow.

There was a touch of irony to what transpired in the ninth inning of the Orioles' 4-3 win over the Toronto Blue Jays. Ward, who influenced the defending World Series champions to let Tom Henke depart via free agency, had to suffer his second blown save in a week before Olson could convert his first opportunity in nine days.

"It's nice to see everybody else does it," said Olson, who has gotten the feeling he's the only closer who doesn't always end a game in proper fashion.

It was the second straight time that Ward (0-2) has blown a win for starter Juan Guzman, who struggled through 5 1/3 innings and turned a 3-2 lead over to Danny Cox.

"It's just one game -- I blew it," said Ward, who took over for Cox with two outs in the eighth inning.

"What can I say? Are you going to bury me now?" Ward asked with a trace of sarcasm.

He might want to check with Olson before asking such questions.

"He's 9-for-11," said Olson, who has blown the same number of saves in eight opportunities. "It just shows that somebody else can do it, too."

Olson's spirits were considerably better than they have been recently, not just because of the save, but because of the reappearance of an old friend. Some call it "the yakker," others refer to it as "the snapper" or "Uncle Charlie."

By whatever name, "it" is Olson's trademark curveball, the one that starts at the belt and ends in the dirt before a hitter can stop his swing. "That thing was nasty," said catcher Jeff Tackett, who warmed up Olson in the bullpen and then caught him after Chris Hoiles had left for a pinch runner.

"I haven't seen it like that in a long time. It came in at the same height as his fastball . . . and then just dropped off. It wasn't just rolling up there -- it had a big bite to it,"said Tackett.

"Everything's coming, but it's been a slow process," said Olson, who has been exasperated by his early-season inconsistency. "Jeff said the curve was the best he's seen it this year, and a few other people mentioned it, so I guess there's something to it.

"I really couldn't tell," said Olson, "because [Devon] White went for the first one and didn't make me adjust."

White chased three breaking balls in the dirt to become Olson's only strikeout victim -- but he also became the only base runner when the last pitch bounced past Tackett, who ran the ball down but made a late throw to first.

The play prevented Olson from recording his first 1-2-3 inning of the season, but Luis Sojo followed with a routine fly ball to end the game.

"That pitch is very touchy," said Olson. "It can come and go, sometimes from the time you leave the bullpen until you get into the game. You just have to have the patience to keep throwing it."

Which is one of the things Olson hasn't had in the early weeks of the season. "It's been like spring training all over again," he said.

"I've been working trying to figure out what I've been doing wrong -- and then trying to fix it. It's been a relearning process, trying to find it [the curveball] again," said Olson.

He'd like to think that yesterday's save was a major stride in the discovery process.

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