Pennington keeps mind on game

NOTEBOOK

April 22, 1994|By Tom Keegan | Tom Keegan,Sun Staff Writer

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."

That does not mean Pennington thinks a demotion is merited.

"I've only pitched three innings," he said before last night'game. "I don't think it's fair to judge someone on three innings."

Six appearances into the season, Pennington had a 12.00 ERA, and had allowed 12 hitters to reach base by hit or walk in three innings. He said his recent problems can be traced to a rushed delivery.

"I still have all the confidence in the world," Pennington said. "The last couple of outings I'm just getting hit. 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 strength. 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.

"I feel good," Pennington said. "You know why I feel good? I finally got an out."

Pennington is not alone in struggling. The four relievers sandwiched between long man Mark Williamson

and closer Lee Smith -- Pennington, Alan Mills, Jim Poole and Mark Eichhorn -- took a combined 13.22 ERA into last night's game.

"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," 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 and realize it wasn't that bad."

Manager Johnny Oates' theory on the recent troubles of Mills, whose ERA ballooned to 24.92 after Wednesday night's outing: "Overuse. Location. Pitch selection. Take your pick."

OK. Too many appearances and too many fastballs catching too much of the plate.

Oquist on track

The Orioles have more right-handed pitching depth than left-handed in the minor leagues.

Right-hander Mike Oquist, the last cut from the pitching staff in spring training and the most likely to earn an early-season promotion, 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 Williamson for the final spot on the staff.

Jason Satre (2-0, 0.00) has allowed two hits in 14 innings.

Oates and Orioles general manager Roland Hemond met yesterday 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."

Devo suffers slight groin pull

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 last night.

Devereaux came out of the game with what was announced as 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 RBI.

First class upgrade

Through 13 games last season, Orioles right fielders combined for a .239 batting average, no runs, three RBI 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 before last night.

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."

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