O's pitching trio awaits chance it hopes won't come

September 25, 1993|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Staff Writer

Generally at this part of the season, when the pennant race has largely been decided, managers give their unproven younger talent a crack at the big time.

For example, the bottom third of the Detroit Tigers' batting order last night -- right fielder Danny Bautista, catcher Rich Rowland and second baseman Chris Gomez -- had a total of 61 major-league games under their collective belts.

Those experiments may come fairly soon to the Orioles, who are on the verge of elimination from the American League East race, even with seven games left with the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees, the two teams ahead of them.

That could be good news for pitchers Kevin McGehee, Mike Oquist and John O'Donoghue.

One, two or all three of the rookie pitchers, now in the bullpen, could get look-see starts next week if elimination comes fairly quickly.

However, none of them wants the starts, if it means being knocked out of the title quest.

"Hopefully, we don't get a start. That would be the best thing," said Oquist, a right-hander.

"That [starting] is what I like to do, but being here and helping out in the bullpen is better," said McGehee, another right-hander.

O'Donoghue, a left-hander, made an emergency start against the Yankees on June 27. He, too, is happy to be along for the ride.

"I don't care what job I have as long as I can stay here," he said.

All three had success as starters at Triple-A Rochester, though Oquist was used briefly in the bullpen when Arthur Rhodes was sent down on a rehabilitation assignment.

O'Donoghue was 7-4 with a 3.38 ERA at Rochester, and McGehee, who was acquired from the San Francisco Giants in late April for Luis Mercedes, was 7-6 and won the International League ERA title (2.96).

Both have had middling success as relievers since they were recalled. O'Donoghue has allowed three runs in his eight appearances (3.38 ERA).

McGehee (9.58 ERA), who had a nightmare introduction to the majors Aug. 23 against the Texas Rangers -- he hit his first batter, allowed a two-run single to the second and a three-run homer to the third -- has settled down, and held the Red Sox scoreless in 2 1/3 innings last week in Boston.

The toughest part for each has been making the transformation from the certainty of starting every fifth day to having long periods of inactivity that could end with a moment's notice.

"I'd never done this before. I got a lot of help from the guys in the pen," said O'Donoghue. "I didn't know how to get warm quick and it hurt me for a while."

McGehee said: "Obviously, we have a lot of pitchers up here right now and it might be tough for us to get in, but when we do, we have to make the best of it."

The most likely candidate for a start could be Oquist, who is in his second tour with the Orioles. In three appearances, Oquist, ,, who was 9-8 at Rochester with a 3.50 ERA, has faced 20 batters and retired all but two and still has not allowed a run.

Like McGehee and O'Donoghue, Oquist's work has been sporadic, but he has used the down time to learn.

"You pick up little tips from the other guys and you learn to apply them," said Oquist. "You have to warm up quicker and stay focused and you can't let a bad performance carry over."

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