Orioles relieve Pennington with Telford

August 12, 1993|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

DETROIT -- Left-hander Brad Pennington could see it coming. He had been hit hard so many times that it probably felt good when it stopped.

It stopped yesterday, when the Orioles optioned the rookie reliever back to the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings and recalled right-hander Anthony Telford to pitch in long relief.

The move came as no surprise, even if it didn't help in last night's 15-5 loss.

Pennington, 24, is one of the most promising and sought-after pitchers in the organization, but he had become a liability in the second half of the season. In his last 10 appearances, he had given up 18 earned runs in 8 2/3 innings (18.69 ERA).

The situation became critical Tuesday night, when Pennington came on for a struggling Ben McDonald and gave up back-to-back home runs in the fifth inning. His performance had no effect on the outcome of the game, since McDonald had given up nine runs, but it made clear to manager Johnny Oates that something had to be done.

"We've got to get better," Oates said after the game.

The club certainly had to get deeper. The short outing by McDonald, coupled with several other bullpen-taxing situations during the past week, made it imperative that the team bring up a fresh pitcher to work in long relief.

The move became even more important when Rick Sutcliffe didn't make it through the first inning last night and Oates called on Telford. Even though Telford was hammered for nine hits and eight runs in 3 1/3 innings, it's unlikely to change Oates' mind about Pennington.

The rookie reliever was not available for comment yesterday, but he could not have argued with the logic of the move or the numbers that led to it. He pitched well enough early in the season to work in some late-inning situations, but his role had diminished during the past several weeks.

"This is just an opportunity to give him a chance to pitch on a regular basis," Oates said."

Of course, it was more than that.

The Orioles are heading into the pennant stretch, which is no place for someone trying to find himself. Letting Pennington get beat up regularly at the major-league level is no one's idea of player development.

"The ballclub comes first," Oates said. "The [individual] players come second. I need him to go down and pitch and I need him to come back and help us. I need him to get back to being the pitcher he was for his first 19 appearances."

Telford may no longer be the same type of prospect, but he is a minor-league veteran who has been at the major-league level several times. He will be the mop-up man, but Oates said he isn't around just to fill up some innings.

"I don't need somebody to suck up innings," he said. "That's what a losing club does. I need somebody to get people out, and he is it. If I wanted to suck up innings, I could use [catcher Jeff] Tackett for that."

The words proved prophetic.

Oates was forced to call on Tackett to pitch in last night's blowout after Telford was hammered during his 3 1/3 -inning outing. After Mark Williamson gave up two more runs in three innings, Tackett came on for the eighth. He responded with a scoreless inning.

Before Telford was recalled, there was speculation that the club would go to right-hander Kevin McGehee, who was acquired from the San Francisco Giants for Luis Mercedes early in the season, but the club obviously opted for experience.

"We talked about everyone in our organization," Oates said. "We talked about left-handers and right-handers, starters and relievers. He was best suited for what we needed. And he's been throwing the ball well. Our people tell us that over his last 10 innings, he has thrown it the best they have ever seen him throw it."

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