O's Fernandez looks healthy, not sharp

March 11, 1994|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Sun Staff Writer

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA — FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- For Sid Fernandez, the best thing about his first appearance with the Orioles is that it's behind him.

"His control wasn't sharp," said manager Johnny Oates. "He threw some good pitches and some bad pitches -- he just got his first appearance out of the way."

Fernandez viewed his effort in much the same way.

"If this was my regular spring training [outing], I wouldn't accept it," he said after giving up four runs and four hits in two innings, as the New York Yankees beat the Orioles, 9-7, last night. "I'm never happy giving up runs.

"But for the first time, after not having thrown for a week, I'm happy that I threw pain-free and I can go on from here. Physically, I felt fine -- I was just wild.

"I had pretty good pop on my fastball, but I had no control of it. My curveball was OK -- I think I only threw one that wasn't a strike -- but I couldn't control the fastball."

After pitching two innings in a squad game 10 days ago, Fernandez experienced what he described as a stinging sensation. "It's not really pain," he said.

It was classified as a slight case of biceps tendinitis. It's something Fernandez has worked his way through in previous spring training camps, but listened to some advice this time around.

"The one thing they told me here is not to mess around," he said. "They believe in taking care of the problem right away, rather than just treating it as you go.

"So they shut me down for a week. And it worked out to be the best [solution], because it turned out good."

Neither Oates nor pitching coach Dick Bosman expressed anxiety about Fernandez. "He's going to be fine," said Oates. "It just takes time."

Bosman said Fernandez didn't have to prove anything in his first appearance of the spring.

"I just want him to get his work in," Bosman said. "I saw enough the other day [when Fernandez threw on the sidelines] to satisfy myself that he's all right. Right now, that's all that's important."

Fernandez said he had some anxiety before last night's game -- but it had nothing to do with making his initial appearance with a new team. "Sure, I had some nervousness," he said. "But I'm always like that.

"I remember last year, pitching my last game for the Mets, I told [pitching coach] Mel Stottlemyre: 'This game doesn't mean anything, but I'm still nervous.' He told me, 'When the nervousness stops, it'stime to quit.' "

Fernandez had his moments last night, striking out Bernie Williams twice with tantalizing curveballs and Danny Tartabull with his best fastball. But in between he struggled.

Don Mattingly hit a high fastball for a two-run homer that gave the Yankees a 6-5 lead in the fifth inning. A three-run homer by Mike Devereaux had given the Orioles an early lead, and Chris Sabo's triple highlighted a two-run sixth inning that regained the lead, 7-6.

But Tartabull hit a mammoth, two-run homer off Kevin McGehee, who gave up three, seventh-inning runs to absorb the loss.

It's fortunate for the Orioles that physical well-being is the most important consideration at the moment -- because their pitching has been generally ineffective during the first week of exhibition play. In the first seven games, five of them losses, the Orioles have allowed 51 earned runs.

Before Fernandez took his turn, Mike Mussina pitched three sporadic innings, allowing four hits and two runs. But he said everything was in working order.

"I felt like I had good velocity," he said. "I threw a fastball past Wade Boggs, and you're not going to do that very often."

At times, Mussina appeared to overpower the predominantly left-handed-hitting Yankees lineup. But he also was victimized by a couple of run-scoring, extra-base hits by Paul O'Neil and Mike Gallego. He allowed a total of four hits while walking one and striking out two.

The one positive for the Orioles is the only one they've experienced sofar in exhibition play. They had 12 hits again, the seventh straight time they've collected at least that many.

In addition to Devereaux (1), Rafael Palmeiro (3) also homered. In the seven exhibitions thus far, the Orioles have gone two innings without a hit only once.

They have a .337 team batting average and are averaging 6.3 runs. But those numbers are overshadowed by the fact the opposition has averaged almost eight runs.

ORIOLES TODAY

Opponent: Los Angeles Dodgers

Site: Vero Beach, Fla.

Time: 1:05 p.m.

TV: None

Radio: WBAL (1090 AM)

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