Voigt's bif night real thing Bu seat on bench requires patience

June 06, 1993|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Staff Writer

Here's a little friendly advice to a certain soft-drink company that bills its product as the "real thing":

Now that a certain bald basketball player has left you for another soft drink, why not bring aboard Orioles rookie Jack Voigt as your new pitchman?

It isn't as if he doesn't drink the stuff. In fact, during the early part of most games, that's all Voigt does.

"I go through six or seven Cokes a game, easily. I keep walking back to the clubhouse and the guys go, 'Time for another Coke,' " said Voigt.

There must be something to that approach, because Voigt went through seven of them Friday night, the biggest night in his 15-game major-league career.

"I went through seven last night. It's cold and it's wet and I like them. It would be nice. Me and Michael [Jordan], right," said Voigt.

Voigt was 3-for-5 Friday, driving in the Orioles' first run in the second inning and the winning run in the 10th in a 6-5 win over the Seattle Mariners.

And he hit his first major-league home run to boot, a seventh-inning clout to left off Seattle starter Randy Johnson.

"It could have been anybody. When you win a game like that, it could be anybody that gets the hit that could help spark something. Hopefully that happens," said Voigt.

Voigt, a 27-year-old native of Sarasota, Fla., has gone 6-for-9 in his last two games.

And yet Voigt, a right-handed hitter, started last night's game on the bench, replaced in the lineup by left-hander Harold Baines against Seattle's right-handed pitcher Erik Hanson.

"That's the way it is," Voigt said. "That's my role here. [Orioles manager] Johnny [Oates] has explained that to me and I understand that. I mean, who's he's going to take out of this lineup? I'm just happy he had the confidence to put me in, especially against a guy like Randy Johnson."

Voigt, a career .265 hitter in the minors who hit .284 last season at Triple-A Rochester, was off to a blazing start with the Red Wings this year, leading the International League with a .361 average.

LTC But he has spent much of his time on the bench since being called up April 29, appearing in just 12 games, mostly as a late-inning pinch runner or defensive substitute.

And though he'd like to be playing more, Voigt understands that his job for now is to produce when called upon.

"It was difficult at first," Voigt said, "because I'm used to starting. But I'm in the big leagues now and I have a job to do.

"Johnny told me I was going to be a young Tim Hulett, so to speak. I would come off the bench and pinch hit, pinch run, maybe play some third and first defensively.

"I've learned how to adjust to that role and I'm kind of starting to think along with him now. 'OK, it's the seventh inning. This guy's coming up on the next couple innings. Who might I run for? Who do I have to get loose for? Is there a left-hander up in the bullpen? Who have they used yet?' I start thinking that way and that's what keeps me in ballgames. That's just as exciting."

By learning to play first and third, Voigt, a natural outfielder, has done the kinds of things that make him valuable to a team like the Orioles.

But Voigt also understands what he calls "the harsh reality of baseball," that even after a great game like Friday's, he can be right back on the bench, or he could go 0-for-4.

Voigt said: "People who follow baseball know that I have a little bit of talent or else I wouldn't be there. I'm not a superstar, but I feel I do the job consistently every day. You see those players on rosters for a lot of years. Hopefully, I'll be one of them."

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