Down for count, Rhodes, Helling each KO'd

INSIDE PITCH

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

Throughout the season, Jim Henneman of The Sun's sports staff will offer his inside pitch -- an analytical look at the turning point in a particular Orioles game, a trend affecting the team or

an important aspect of a player's performance.

For the better part of two hours yesterday, Arthur Rhodes and Rick Helling did a baseball imitation of a pair of overweight boxers compelled to slug it out as long as possible.

Fortunately for the 46,469 rain-splattered fans at Camden Yards, neither starting pitcher lasted beyond the fourth inning.

Otherwise, the Orioles and Rangers might have finished the game, which started at 1:36 p.m., under the lights. As it was, the encounter stretched out for a seemingly interminable 3 hours, 40 minutes.

It was not a pleasant picture for either manager, the Orioles' Johnny Oates or the Rangers' Kevin Kennedy. Neither Helling, who outlasted his counterpart four innings to three, nor Rhodes had much of a notion about the whereabouts of home plate.

Both had reasonable excuses -- Helling was making his major-league debut and Rhodes was pitching for the first time in 11 days. They reacted accordingly, and predictably. Both were consistently behind in the count. Both walked three, struck out three and allowed two prodigious home runs.

Helling left with a 6-4 lead, but didn't last long enough for a win. Rhodes allowed two three-spots in three innings and got the loss.

For Helling, the game was only the start of a career that has yet to unfold.

For Rhodes, it was a continuation of a trend toward the wild side. It is one he has to curtail to remain a member in good standing of the Orioles' starting rotation.

"What we are looking for is pitchers who go out there, throw strikes and give our defense a chance to catch the ball," Oates said after the game.

Because the Orioles went into the game tied for the major-league lead for fewest walks allowed (10), it was clear he was talking about the most recent developments (reliever Brad Pennington walked two in his one inning yesterday).

Oates didn't indicate that Rhodes' position in the rotation was in immediate jeopardy. But neither did he say the job was secure indefinitely.

"I'm taking into consideration he hasn't pitched a lot lately," said Oates. "You have to have patience. He's going to get the ball every fifth game for a while, and we'll see what happens."

How long that is remains to be seen, but Rhodes says he'll make the issue academic.

"Not pitching for 11 days can be a big factor," he said. "Next time I'll be fine."

His next start will be against the same team Friday night in Texas. After that he'll be on a fairly regular schedule -- at least "for a while."

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