Family spat sets up Frohwirth's escape

JOHN EISENBERG

July 25, 1993|By JOHN EISENBERG

MINNEAPOLIS -- There are routine trips to the mound made by the pitching coach. Then there are trips such as Dick Bosman's in the seventh inning of the Orioles' 9-2 win yesterday.

Not so routine.

Unless your idea of routine is a bug-eyed screaming match between Bosman and Todd Frohwirth, with catcher Chris Hoiles feeling the need to step between them.

It happened at the one tense moment of a day on which the Orioles took the lead in the first inning and never lost it. The Orioles were up two, but the Twins had the bases loaded with one out. Frohwirth, having replaced starter Jamie Moyer, had completed the loading process by walking the ninth hitter in the Twins' order, Pat Meares, on four low pitches.

It didn't take much imagination to envision the Twins rallying to take the lead, particularly since Frohwirth's July has been a mess, his ERA a victim of double-digit inflation.

Bosman popped out of the dugout and strode to the mound, hands planted in his back pockets. The Orioles' pitching coach is a mild-mannered soul who usually heads to the mound to soothe, but this time he started railing at Frohwirth. Didn't even -- bother to say hello.

Frohwirth is the Orioles' clubhouse comedian, a dry wit and unassuming character in a sport of self-importance and ego. But he didn't find Bosman's screaming funny. So he screamed back.

"I reacted like a human being," Frohwirth said later.

Whatever was said, it was bad.

"It's between me and Boz," he said. "Some things aren't meant for the public."

On that, at least, the pitcher and coach concurred. "Let's just say we had a father-and-son chat," Bosman said. "I don't think I should comment beyond that."

It made for a pretty lively piece of television, someone said.

"I'll bet it did," Bosman said.

No, not a routine trip to the mound. But look at what happened next: Frohwirth struck out Shane Mack and got Chuck Knoblauch to hit a grounder to third, quashing the rally and ending the inning.

The Orioles scored two runs in the eighth and four in the ninth to put muscles on the final score, but, without Frohwirth's escape, they could easily have been behind going into the eighth. The ending would have been a lot sweatier.

"We got the job done," Bosman said. "That's what matters."

He's right. And, really, this is nothing more than dirty laundry, a family spat gone public. In the dugout after the inning, Bosman went over to Frohwirth and patted the pitcher on the rump. The message was unmistakable: Good job, all is forgotten.

"Our team won, 9-2," Frohwirth said. "It was a great day."

The incident is significant only because it illuminates the one spot where the Orioles are struggling lately -- their bullpen. Their bats are hot and most of their starting pitchers are somewhere between adequate and miraculous, but their bullpen isn't as consistent as it was.

Part of the problem is a development for which any manager would trade: Starters consistently pitching into the late innings, limiting the need for the bullpen. Relievers tend to struggle when they don't pitch. Major-league arms can get rusty in a hurry.

The other part of the problem is trickier. The bullpen has three right-handers -- Frohwirth, Alan Mills and Mark Williamson -- capable of throwing long or middle relief. The depth is a luxury for manager Johnny Oates, and too many arms are better than too few, but it can be argued that all three are suffering because there isn't enough work to go around.

Frohwirth is struggling. Mills has yielded nine runs in his past three outings. Williamson had a rocky night in Kansas City recently.

When Frohwirth raised the issue before the All-Star break, Bosman was unhappy.

"I just answered a reporter's question," Frohwirth said. "I wasn't mad at all. I just said that there were three guys out there and we all could be setup men. I was just trying to explain why we aren't always going to dominate individually."

The moral of the story? Roseanne Roseannadanna was right. It's always something. The Orioles are hot, but a team has too many parts, too many interlocking components, for everything to run smoothly all the time.

So, a pitcher and a coach got a little peeved yesterday, and maybe a little more than peeved, and everyone saw it, and everyone said, "Did you see that?" But it was mostly just that -- sightseeing.

"I wish it was a bigger story," Frohwirth said, "so I could really make some headlines."

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