O's pair delivers, with variety to go

February 21, 1994|By KEN ROSENTHAL

SARASOTA, FLA — SARASOTA, Fla. -- Philadelphia vs. St. Louis, Busch Stadium, 1989. Dan Quisenberry had never met Todd Frohwirth. But as batting practice ended, Quisenberry was waiting for him in right field.

"He was kind of running wind sprints, kind of not," Frohwirth recalled yesterday. "We made eye contact. It was clear he wanted to visit. And I wanted to visit with him."

It was ESP.

Extra submariner's perception.

"They have to talk to each other," Orioles assistant general manager Frank Robinson said, chuckling. "They're the only ones who know how to straighten each other out."

Now, the Orioles have found Frohwirth a brother in arms -- sort of. Mark Eichhorn is a sidearmer, not a submariner. And the bond won't be so strong if the free agent from Toronto takes Frohwirth's job.

That doesn't appear likely -- both right-handers should make the Orioles' staff. They offer distinct deliveries and repertoires, yet they still belong to the baseball underworld.

"We just respect each other for not having a lot of ability, and finding a way to pitch in the major leagues," Frohwirth said of his funky-throwing brethren.

They don't throw hard, heavens, no. Frohwirth took one look at Lee Smith's explosive fastball yesterday, and reacted in mock horror.

"This guy can deliver the rock, eh?" he said. "I'm in trouble."

Eichhorn once threw 90 mph, back in the early 1980s, back when he threw overhand, back when he was Toronto's top prospect, but had no clue.

He can do without the heat now.

"I totally despise it, I have no interest in it. I don't want to see it," he said, flashing a wicked smile.

Creativity and durability -- those are the trademarks of this rare breed. Submariners and sidearmers use their savvy to overcome limitations, and they're always ready to go.

Frohwirth, 31, has never once refused the ball from manager Johnny Oates in his three seasons with the Orioles, working a league-high 298 2/3 relief innings in that period.

Eichhorn, 33, has made at least 45 relief appearances in seven of the past eight seasons, and tied a league record in 1987 by pitching in 89 games.

Did the extra work throw him off?

"It put me on," Eichhorn said, laughing. "That's ideal. You kidding me? I'll throw 162. Ask Froh, he would, too."

Heck, when Frohwirth was in junior college, his team would play three doubleheaders a week, and he'd throw 10 innings a day -- a 750-inning pace, if applied to a six-month major-league schedule.

"I never get sore," Frohwirth said. "Sometimes if I throw too many breaking balls in a week, I'll be a little tired. I won't need a day off. I just won't feel as good."

The secret isn't Frohwirth's body -- "from the handshake on down, it's very soft," Oates said. No, the secret is that submariners throw with a more natural motion.

"The closer you approach underhand, the less strain there is on your arm," pitching coach Dick Bosman said. "Unfortunately, there isn't as great a repertoire of pitches to throw."

Frohwirth relies on sinkers, sliders and the deception of his delivery. Eichhorn's sidearm motion is more familiar to hitters, but it also gives him more options.

Indeed, Eichhorn is the man of 1,000 pitches. Bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks joked that he throws "a screw-knuckle-change." Oates and Bosman also marveled at his repertoire.

"He's got a whole bunch of different kinds of sinkers, a couple of different breaking balls, and a forkball-type changeup that almost doesn't get to the plate," Bosman said.

That's the value of experience. Eichhorn converted to a reliever in 1984. He became a sidearmer, then a submariner, then a sidearmer again, making stops in Atlanta and California before returning to Toronto.

Frohwirth also was a sidearmer at one point, but Bosman turned him back into a submariner at Rochester in '91. He and Eichhorn were always part of the same fraternity. Now, they're part of the same team.

"There is a kinship, there definitely is," Eichhorn said. "The only reason why we're up in The Show is because we know how to pitch. If we didn't, we'd be long gone."

Frohwirth recalls facing Tidewater in the International League, and how he'd strike up a conversation with submariner Jeff Innis every time.

"It's like we were friends before we ever met," he said.

It's that ESP.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.