Martinez brings mound of memories

May 06, 1994|By Paul Hoynes | Paul Hoynes,Milestones and MemoriesSpecial to The Sun

The ballpark is different. So is the team. Yet Dennis Martinez can't wait to get back.

Martinez may not have left his heart in Baltimore, but he left enough of himself to know that tonight's start against the Orioles at Camden Yards will carry a sharper edge than most games.

"There will be a lot of emotion, a lot of old memories," said Martinez. "I'm anxious to see how people will react. Will they be in favor or against me? I expect to put on a good show."

Martinez and his new team, the Cleveland Indians, face Mike Mussina at 7:35 p.m.

While Martinez could not know the particulars of the game -- who he'd pitch against, what lineup the Orioles will use, what would the weather be like -- he has given the game itself much thought.

The Orioles signed Martinez while he was pitching for the Nicaraguan national team in 1973. He spent the next 13 years in the Orioles system.

He spent 10 of those years in the big leagues at Memorial Stadium. His record was 108-93. It was a good time to be an Oriole. They reached the World Series in 1979 and won it in 1983.

"I remember the closeness of the players on those teams," said Martinez. "It was really exciting to play there then. It's probably the same way, but I want to see if the fans still support the club the same way. They have a new park now, with new and younger fans coming to the games."

Martinez has an idea how Baltimore feels about the Orioles. In 1991, he helped close Memorial Stadium with hundreds of other former Orioles in ceremonies before the final game. The memories are still with him.

"It was really emotional," he said. "There were a lot of tears from the fans and players. It was neat. When I was introduced, they gave me a good ovation. That was the year I'd pitched my perfect game. So probably people remembered me then even more."

The Orioles traded Martinez to Montreal in 1986. He'd fallen into disfavor with former manager Earl Weaver. Ray Miller, the pitching coach at the time, said Martinez had lost the killer instinct.

There was also a drinking problem that had surfaced in 1983. Hank Peters, the Orioles' former general manager, forced Martinez to confront the problem. Martinez went to a rehabilitation program and joined Alcoholics Anonymous, but he did not pitch well.

Through that period, Martinez remembered how the fans treated him.

"They never booed me," he said. "I guess I never really gave them a chance. The only time I had a bad year was in 1983 because of my drinking problem. But we won the World Series that year, so that covered up what I was doing bad.

"The fans understood my problem -- what I was going through. When I left, people followed what I did in the other league. I think they started to appreciate me more."

What Martinez did was resurrect his career. In eight seasons with Montreal, he went 100-72. In his last six years, he went to three All-Star Games, threw a perfect game and averaged at least 222 innings.

At the end of last season, he became a free agent. The Indians signed him to a two-year deal worth $9 million with a club option.

"We were looking for a veteran pitcher to stabilize the rotation," said general manager John Hart. "Dennis was the guy we wanted from the start."

Why Cleveland? The money didn't hurt, but there are deep Orioles roots in the Indians front office. Hart came up as a manager and coach in the Orioles system. Dan O'Dowd, the director of baseball operations, started his career in the Orioles front office.

And on the same day that Martinez signed with the Indians, so did former Oriole Eddie Murray.

Martinez, 38, has not started well with the Indians. He's 0-3 in six starts with a 4.29 ERA.

After being named Opening Day starter following an impressive spring, he has not had good luck. In his first three starts, the Indians scored a combined two runs while he was on the mound. In one of those games, he pitched a four-hitter and lost, 2-1, to David Cone and Kansas City.

In two starts, he's left with leads, only to have the bullpen waste them.

"I don't worry about my record," said Martinez. "As long as I'm giving our team a chance to win when I'm in the game, I'm satisfied. Luck hasn't been going my way, but it will turn around."

And it would delight him if it would turn around tonight, in front of Baltimore fans Martinez likes to think are still his own.

"I'm sure there will be a lot of mixed emotions when I pitch there," said Martinez. "Some people will be pulling for me. Some will want me to get beat because I'm pitching against their club.

"I will consider myself proud because eight years later, after the people in that organization gave up on me, I'm still pitching."

MARTINEZ'S STATS

# TOTALS WITH ORIOLES

Years ... W-L ... ERA ... BB ... SO

'76-86 ..108-93.. 4.16 .. 583 .. 858

YEARLY SINCE LEAVING O's

Yr Tm ...... W-L ... ERA ... BB ... SO

'86 Mon. ... 3-6 ... 4.59 .. 28 ... 63

'87 Mon. .. 11-4 ... 3.30 .. 40 ... 84

'88 Mon. .. 15-13 .. 2.72 .. 55 .. 120

'89 Mon. .. 16-7 ... 3.18 .. 49 .. 142

'90 Mon. .. 10-11 .. 2.95 .. 49 .. 156

'91 Mon. .. 14-11 .. 2.39 .. 62 .. 123

'92 Mon. .. 16-11 .. 2.47 .. 60 .. 147

'93 Mon. .. 15-9 ... 3.85 .. 64 .. 138

'94 Cle. ... 0-3 ... 4.29 .. 11 ... 21

Totals .. 100-75 ... 3.09 ..418 .. 994

AVERAGE YEAR WITH O'S*

W-L .... ERA .. BB .. SO

10-8 .. 4.16 .. 53 .. 78

AVERAGE YEAR SINCE LEAVING O'S*

W-L ... ERA ... BB ... SO

13-9 .. 3.06 .. 51 .. 122

*--Average years do not include 1994 statistics. Figures are rounded to nearest whole number.

DENNIS THE MENACE

Dennis Martinez is 215th on the all-time victory list. He is No. 3 in wins among active players. Here's the active top 5:

Player, Team ......... Wins

Jack Morris, Cle. .... 245

Charlie Hough, Fla. .. 214

Martinez, Cle. ....... 208

Bob Welch, Oak. ...... 208

Dennis Eckersley, Oak. 183

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