Bench players reserved about role

April 17, 1994|By Tom Keegan | Tom Keegan,Sun Staff Writer

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Heading into last night's game against the Texas Rangers at The Ballpark in Arlington, Orioles manager Johnny Oates had barely used his bench.

Tim Hulett started one game and was used once as a pinch hitter. Damon Buford was used once as a pinch runner, and Jeff Tackett as a defensive replacement. Leo Gomez and Lonnie Smith awaited their first action. Gomez's came only after Chris Sabo was ejected for arguing a called third-strike call in the fifth last night.

Playing for the first time, Jack Voigt started at designated hitter in place of Harold Baines, who rested against Texas left-hander Kenny Rogers.

Still, no one has complained about the lack of playing time yet.

"It's never easy," Hulett said. "But instead of looking at it as far as how much time I'm going to get, I look at it as far as what it means to my World Series chances. At this point in my career that's the most important consideration."

Smith has been there before, sitting on the bench wondering when he next will be called upon to hit.

"I went through it in my last season in Atlanta," Smith said of 1992. "Of course, I had a chance to pinch hit some."

That chance hasn't come yet for Smith, who will see most of his time as a part-time designated hitter against some left-handed pitchers.

"The biggest difference now is I'm a lot happier here than I was in Atlanta," Smith said. "That's the most important thing. Besides, there are (152) games left. I might get into one of them. All you have to do is look at the talent in our lineup to see why you aren't going to get a lot of at-bats."

To keep fresh, Smith takes extra hitting during home games in the indoor batting cage.

"We're allowed to do that, as long as we remember there is a game going on and don't stay in there all game," Smith said.

The Ballpark in Arlington has an indoor cage for both the home and visiting teams.

"That was a really nice surprise," Smith said.

Oates chose Voigt over Smith last night because Voigt had gone 3-for-7 with two home runs against Rogers.

Baines (.371, three home runs, six RBIs) has been the Orioles' hottest hitter, but Oates said he was not tempted to use him. "His knees need a rest," Oates said.

Oates stands by Eichhorn

Orioles reliever Mark Eichhorn has allowed four hits and three earned runs in his past two appearances, covering 1 1/3 innings.

In five appearances on the season, Eichhorn has pitched five innings, allowed 10 hits, three walks and five earned runs.

That doesn't mean Eichhorn won't get any more chances.

"Everybody's going to pitch," Oates said. "In the next three or four weeks we're going to give everyone an opportunity to play, then we're going to make some decisions. We're not going to hide anybody. You can't make any decisions if you are hiding people."

Pennington loses wager, beard

Left-hander Brad Pennington lost a bet with a local sports radio talk show host and will have to shave his goatee as a result of walking Chris James in the eighth inning of Friday night's 8-3 loss.

Actually, Pennington won't shave his goatee; waitresses at Hooters at Harborplace will do so Monday night as part of a

fund-raising event for the Ed Block Courage Awards Foundation, which benefits abused children.

Pennington will sign autographs at the event, which also will draw several Baltimore Spirit players.

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