Hard throwers are making BP anything but easy


March 01, 1994|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Sun Staff Writer

SARASOTA, FLA — SARASOTA, Fla. -- Rafael Palmeiro was standing outside the cage when Barry Manuel took the pitching mound.

After watching a succession of live fastballs and erratic curveballs from the hard-throwing right-hander, the Orioles' new first baseman made an observation. "This," Palmeiro said, "is the toughest thing about spring training."

The scene took place late last week, but it has been repeated every day since the full squad arrived and the pitchers started throwing batting practice. It's almost impossible for hitters to practice against the pitching they see in the early days of training camp.

"We don't have too many 15-year veterans who are just trying to get in shape," said manager Johnny Oates. "It seems like every time I turn around, somebody is airing it out. In batting practice everybody looks good."

Except the batters. It's one of the rituals of spring.

"Really, it isn't batting practice . . . it's pitching practice," Oates said, adding that he could empathize with the hitters.

"I was a left-handed hitter and there's one guy out there who' right-handed who I would give both sides of the plate to," said Oates.

He was referring to Armando Benitez, the raw rookie right-hander. "He knows three pitches -- hard, harder and wild," said Oates. "If he learns to throw enough strikes, he'll make it tough on anybody."

Exhibition pitching set

Oates has set up his pitching for the first two exhibition games, and at the same time he said that neither Mike Mussina nor Arthur Rhodes would pitch in the squad games tomorrow and Thursday. However, they are not being skipped for physical reasons.

They will pitch the second game, against the St. Louis Cardinals, Saturday, along with Mark Eichhorn and Lee Smith, Oates said. "We're holding them out of the squad games to set up their schedule for the rest of the spring," he said.

Alan Mills, Todd Frohwirth, John O'Donoghue and Mike Oquist are scheduled to pitch two innings each against the Toronto Blue Jays in the exhibition opener on Friday. Mike Cook, Rich Krivda and Manuel also will be available.

Alexander out three days

Rookie infielder Manny Alexander had a cyst removed frohis left thigh yesterday and will be held out of workouts for the next three days.

"They [the doctors] thought they could just drain it," said Oates, "but they had to cut it off and he needed a few stitches. He'll be looked at again on Thursday and should be able to start working again on Friday."

Gedman catches on

Rich Gedman has made a "very positive" impression on Oates during the first stage of spring training.

"I'm thinking about going with three catchers," said the manager. "If we do, he's got a pretty good chance to make the club. If we go with two, he's got 30 games to prove himself.

"We're just looking for a fit. I know what [right-handed-hitting] Jeff Tackett can do. With Gedman, I know I have a left-handed bat and the biggest thing will be how he throws and receives the ball."

Voigt signs one-year deal

The list of unsigned players was reduced to six yesterday, when outfielder Jack Voigt signed a one-year contract. Jeffrey Hammonds has agreed to terms, but has not officially signed an agreement.

The others who remain unsigned are Alexander, pitchers Jim Poole, Mussina and Rhodes and outfielder Damon Buford.

Catching a chill

The hottest news in camp yesterday was the absence of hot water in the showers for the second straight day. "Back-to-back days with cold showers," said relief pitcher Mark Williamson.

There was a sign on the bulletin board with this message: "A Search For A Circulating Pump Is On."

AIDS wake-up call

The Orioles were in uniform 90 minutes earlier than usual yesterday, for a team presentation on AIDS that began at 8.30 a.m.

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