Oates doesn't hold back his praise for reserves

NOTEBOOK

April 24, 1994|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Sun Staff Writer

Manager Johnny Oates allowed himself a little daydreaming yesterday while reflecting on the Orioles' last two wins.

"It makes you feel good when guys like Leo [Gomez] today and Jeff [Tackett] and Jack [Voigt] last night step up like they did," said Oates. He was referring to yesterday's game-winning hit by Gomez and the three runs driven in by Voigt and Tackett on Friday night.

"Maybe, because I was always a bench player, I'm reliving my career through these guys. But I wasn't able to do the second part, to come through like they did."

The importance of bench strength has suddenly become a factor for the Orioles.

After being able to play a pat hand the first two weeks, a few nagging injuries have forced Oates to juggle his lineup somewhat.

Mike Devereaux left Thursday night's game against California with a slight groin pull, Chris Sabo came out Friday night because of back spasms and designated hitter Harold Baines retired early yesterday after also suffering a groin injury while scoring from second base on a single by Chris Hoiles in the third inning.

Oates had decided Friday night that Gomez would start yesterday's game, but he isn't certain about today. Sabo was examined yesterday and proclaimed available and is on a day-to-day basis.

Sabo is 5-for-5 against Greg Hibbard, who will start for the Mariners this afternoon. "I'm going to wait and see how he feels," said Oates, "but I'm not going to push it."

Baines was scheduled to get a day off this afternoon against the left-handed Hibbard anyhow, but could be available to pinch-hit. Oates also indicated he might rest Mark McLemore and give Tim Hulett another start at second base.

Smith: Save the stats

On the surface at least, Lee Smith is unimpressed with his record-setting start. His nine saves in 16 games is the earliest anyone has ever reached that level.

Dennis Eckersley had nine saves after 20 games for the A's in 1988 and Mark Davis had the same pace for the Padres a year later.

"I'm not a stat man," said Smith. "I never look at things like that. I look at saves and save opportunities. Things are falling into place for me."

The all-time leader, Smith now has 410 career saves.

Speaking of stats . . .

The numbers don't give a true indication of how the early part of the season has gone for the Orioles, and to a lesser degree, the Mariners.

Going into yesterday's game, opponents had out-hit (.267-.262) and outscored (79-77) the Orioles, had more hits (138-132), home runs (24-18), RBIs (76-75) and had a lower earned-run average (4.57-5.21). Despite the numbers stacked up against them, the Orioles won nine of their first 15 games.

In a similar vein, the Orioles led the American League with eight saves (all belonging to Smith), but their bullpen has the highest ERA in the league (7.88).

Conversely, the Mariners' bullpen had the second best ERA in the league (3.38) -- but they were the only team in the major leagues without a save.

Crowd control

The Orioles had their fifth sellout in 10 home dates yesterday, although the paid crowd of 45,059 was smaller than some of the nonsellouts. The reason was the presence of more than 2,600 Safety Patrol members from throughout the state.

Miscellaneous

Rafael Palmeiro had his second three-hit game of the year yesterday, including his fifth home run. He is hitting .433 (13-for-30) in day games. When he hit 37 homers a year ago, Palmeiro didn't hit No. 5 until May 20, the 39th game of the season. . . . Cal Ripken's fifth-inning single extended his hitting streak to seven games, matching Baines for the Orioles' longest of the year to date. . . . Six of the past seven home runs hit by the Orioles have led off an inning, and 11 of the 19 total have come with the bases empty.

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