Left-hander Brad Pennington recently allowed eight consecutive runners to reach base, a spell that a year ago would have triggered a case of Rochester phobia for the young left-hander from Salem, Ind.
Not this season, Pennington insists, though he realizes his is the most tenuous spot on the pitching staff.
"I did that last year and it caused me to have five more bad outings," Pennington said. "I learned from last year. If I do have to go down, I have to go down. There is nothing I can do."
Pennington allowed three runs in three innings, walked two and struck out four in the Orioles' 11-8 loss to the Angels last night.
Pennington (0-0, 10.50) has allowed 16 base runners in six innings. He said his recent problems could be traced to a rushed delivery.
"I still have all the confidence in the world," Pennington said. "My control isn't as good as it was in spring training and I'm worrying too much about pitching to the weaknesses of the hitters instead of pitching to my strengths. I'm getting behind more in the count and coming in with a fastball anybody can hit."
Velocity has not been the problem, Pennington said. "My fastball is back to where it was when I was throwing my best last year," Pennington said. "I'm back in the 90s, which is a good sign."
Pennington, 25, walked seven and struck out 13 while posting a 3.60 ERA in 15 Grapefruit League innings.
He rode the shuttle between Baltimore and Rochester last season and went 3-2 with a 6.55 ERA for the Orioles.
Pennington has not been alone in struggling.
Excluding closer Lee Smith, the bullpen ERA is 10.13.
"When I was in California, we struggled bad for about a month and the next thing you know we were the best bullpen in baseball," veteran Mark Eichhorn said. "It's early. What we're going through right now can be a character-building thing. It's a good little test for us. When we get through it we can look back andrealize it wasn't that bad."
Minor depth all right
The Orioles have more right-handed pitching depth than left-handed in the minor leagues.
Mike Oquist, the last cut from the pitching staff in spring training, is 2-0 with a 1.64 ERA for Rochester. He compiled a 2.75 ERA in 19 2/3 innings during spring training, when he was beaten out by Mark Williamson for the final spot on the staff.
Jason Satre (2-0, 0.00), who impressed Orioles manager Johnny Oates in an exhibition appearance in Atlanta, has allowed two hits in 14 shutout innings.
Tom Wegmann, the right-hander acquired from the Mets in the David Segui deal, threw 3 2/3 innings of no-hit ball for Rochester last night and lowered his ERA to 3.27.
Oates and Orioles general manager Roland Hemond met Thursday afternoon to discuss the Orioles' roster. Oates would not reveal what he told Hemond, but it no doubt was different from what he told reporters afterward.
"I'm really confident the people we've got are just as good as anyone else's," Oates said of the Orioles' pitching staff in relation to others in the league. "We're all worse than we thought we were going to be."
Orioles center fielder Mike Devereaux, who had played in every inning in the first 13 games, was lifted for pinch hitter Jack Voigt in the fifth inning of last night's game.
Devereaux came out of the game with a slight groin pull. Voigt played left field and Brady Anderson moved to center.
Devereaux drove in a run in the third inning with a sacrifice fly for his first RBI in eight games. Devereaux is batting .173 with nine RBIs.
Don't call him Eugene
Bo Jackson erupted when he heard the ESPN report on the television in the Angels' clubhouse after the game.
Jackson reacted to ESPN's Keith Olbermann calling him Bo "Eugene" Jackson during a highlight of Jackson's home run. Jackson's given name is Vincent Edward Jackson.
"Did he call me Eugene?" Jackson hollered. "Did he call me Eugene?"
Olbermann referred to him as "Eugene" one more time, again drawing Jackson's ire.
"He called me Eugene again," Jackson said. "Give me that guy's number. I'm going to get his number, call him and . . . ."
The ESPN reporter in the clubhouse removed the logo from his microphone before approaching Jackson's locker. Gutsy move.
First class upgrade
Through 13 games last season, Orioles right fielders combined for a .239 batting average, no runs, three RBIs and 13 strikeouts.
Over the same period, the club's No. 9 hitters combined for a .133 average, no extra-base hits, eight strikeouts and one RBI.
This season, Orioles right fielder and No. 9 hitter Jeffrey Hammonds hit .304 with five doubles, one triple, three home runs and 10 RBIs.
Such numbers might suggest a move up the batting order is in order, but Oates isn't thinking along those lines. "Not yet," Oates said. "My goal is to let him hit there the whole year, be comfortable there the whole year. His day will come."
And when it does, what then?
"He can hit anywhere in the lineup," Oates said. "Someday, he'll probably be a No. 3 hitter."