McDonald: It's just a phase

SIDELIGHT

May 20, 1994|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Sun Staff Writer

There's an old sports axiom that says a team never looks as good as when it's winning and never as bad as when it's losing.

That can be custom tailored to fit individual players, and Ben McDonald believes it fits him perfectly right now.

McDonald, who has dropped his past two starts after beating the rest of baseball to seven wins, says he wasn't the dominating pitcher that his gaudy start would imply.

And now that he has come back to earth, in a sense, McDonald maintains that he is not reeling either.

"It's just one of those times, I guess. You go through these phases," McDonald said after Wednesday's 5-2 loss to the Boston Red Sox. "These things happen and the good pitchers work their way out of it. I've got to pitch myself out of it."

Since beating Oakland, 9-1, in a complete game on May 3, McDonald, the American League Pitcher of the Month in April, has cooled considerably, surrendering 14 runs in his past three starts, after giving up only 12 in his first six games.

In those past three outings, McDonald has worked to an ERA of 7.88, raising his overall ERA to 3.75.

He managed a win in the first of those outings, an 8-6 effort over Cleveland on Mother's Day, thanks in large measure to being staked to an early 8-0 lead.

But McDonald has run into two hot teams, the Minnesota Twins and the Red Sox, and two hot pitchers, Pat Mahomes and Aaron Sele, and has come out the loser in his past two games.

"You can tell when a guy is on and has got his stuff," said McDonald. "I was in that situation last year. It seemed like I get everybody's ace. When you get those guys, you can't expect to get too many runs."

Good opposition pitching may explain why Orioles hitters have tailed off in McDonald's recent starts, but it hardly provides a clue for his troubles.

McDonald's problems are not mechanical, or at least not in the view of pitching coach Dick Bosman or catcher Chris Hoiles, but rather where he's placing the ball.

"Some of his spots have been kind of erratic, but as far as his stuff goes, he's been throwing the same kind of stuff," said Hoiles.

Said Bosman: "He ain't gettin' it where he's pitchin' it. He could have gotten away with a couple of those pitches [Wednesday], but that happens. His curve wasn't there, but he's fine."

Physically, however, McDonald really isn't fine. He says he has a "dead arm," with some occasional stiffness and soreness.

In addition, McDonald has suffered some elbow tenderness since the beginning of spring training.

"I've felt this bad before, but I haven't really felt as good as I did in the second half of last season. It's just as bad as it was, but it hasn't gotten better," said McDonald. "Plus, the weather's been so cold lately and the muscles ache and all that stuff. It's just a little nagging stuff. It's nothing I can't pitch through."

Indeed, besides a pretty good season, McDonald has something of great personal pride at stake. After a run of injuries early in his career, the 6-foot-7 native of Denham Springs, La., has a two-year string of 78 consecutive starts without missing a turn.

"It [his arm] is going to have to break in two for me to miss a turn," said McDonald. "Hopefully, I'll go out against Milwaukee Monday and pitch seven or eight innings."

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