Ripken says May daze is no reason to panic

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

May 26, 1994|By Tom Keegan | Tom Keegan,Sun Staff Writer

MILWAUKEE -- Shortstop Cal Ripken has been through the lean times, the 0-21 start in 1988, and the mean times, the 1983 World Series winners.

During his 13 seasons with the Orioles, Ripken has seen the club go through bad stretches in 13 of those seasons. So it should come as no surprise Ripken sounded a voice of reason when others, including owner Peter Angelos, voiced concern over a so-so May, which took a turn for the better with a three-game sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers completed yesterday at County Stadium.

The notion that the Orioles have not played up to their potential was brought up to Ripken, who didn't necessarily agree.

"There is no way you can evaluate that until you have a good portion of the season under your belt," Ripken said. "Who knows if that means August or whenever, but it certainly isn't May."

The Orioles are on a 98-win pace and are 11-9 in May.

"It's a long season," Ripken said. "When we won the WorlSeries, we had two long losing streaks."

To be exact, the 1983 Orioles had a pair of seven-game losing streaks. The 1994 Orioles lost seven of eight during a recent stretch.

"Even if you win 100 games, you are going to lose 60," Ripken said. "Even if you only lose 60 games, you are going to have stretches where you don't play well. The key is to minimize those situations, then look up in August and September and see where you are. Too much is made of one bad stretch."

Informed of the pace the Orioles were on, Ripken said, "That's not bad, is it?"

Ripken leads the Orioles with 34 RBIs, though he only has three home runs.

"I haven't felt in a power groove where I've felt I'm able to drive the ball and hit some home runs," Ripken said. "The last few days I've started to find that feel where I can hit the ball out of the park."

No interest in Strawberry

The Orioles are seeking a left-handed-hitting outfielder, but Darryl Strawberry, released by the Los Angeles Dodgers yesterday, isn't exactly what they have in mind.

"That's something we would have to sit down and talk with Roland [Hemond] about, but I don't see where we would be interested," assistant general manager Doug Melvin said. "He hasn't played all year. We're looking for a left-handed hitting outfielder, but we need someone who can step in and play right away."

McDonald to start Saturday

Ben McDonald, who suffered a mild groin strain during his Monday night start, said he was feeling much better yesterday and would have no problem making his scheduled start Saturday in Chicago.

Orioles manager Johnny Oates said he was confident enough of McDonald making the start that he had Mike Oquist ready for long relief duty if he needed him yesterday.

"It looks good for Ben," Oates said. "If for some reason he isn't ready to go Saturday, I'll start Oquist then instead of next Tuesday."

Sabo in reserve

For the moment, third baseman Chris Sabo is a part-time player, platooning at designated hitter with Harold Baines.

"I'd have to be goofy to take Leo [Gomez] out of there the way he's hitting now," Oates said. "Chris is able to play third base and has been able since he came off the disabled list."

Mills back on track

Right-hander Alan Mills pitched three scoreless innings for his first save in the Orioles' 13-5 Tuesday night win over Milwaukee, shrinking his ERA to 9.18. This is the first time Mills' ERA has been below 10.00 since it went into double figures in his second appearance.

The biggest difference?

"He's throwing his slider in the strike zone when he wants to and out of the strike zone when he wants to," Oates said. "He was missing with his slider before, trying to be too fine with it, then he was coming back with his fastball and getting hit.

"Before it was first-pitch slider, ball one. Try to paint with his fastball, ball two. He'd have to come back in with his fastball and they would crush it. He's getting back in a good groove mentally and physically."

Mills, among the most congenial members of the Orioles, becomes very tight-lipped when the topic turns to his pitching. "I'm making a conscious effort to keep the ball down," Mills said.

In his past six appearances covering 7 2/3 innings, Mills has allowed four hits and one run, has walked three and struck out six.

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