O's talk, but still left out on bench

June 02, 1994|By KEN ROSENTHAL

Where have you gone, Larry Sheets?

Jim Dwyer?

John Lowenstein?

For that matter, where have you gone, Joe Orsulak and David Segui?

Any of the above would look good in an Orioles uniform right now -- yes, even Brother Lowe at the age of 47.

Once upon a time, the Orioles took pride in their left-handed hitters off the bench.

Suddenly, they can't even find one at Triple-A.

Club officials are now furiously trying to correct a deficiency they should have addressed last winter. Their wish list contains several names, the most attainable of which might be California outfielder Dwight Smith.

The Angels are interested in Rochester left-hander Brad Pennington, and Orioles general manager Roland Hemond said last night that discussions between the clubs have gone "back and forth quite a bit in recent days."

Ten days ago, the Orioles thought they were on the verge of trading for San Francisco's Dave Martinez. They've also explored deals for Montreal's Larry Walker and Philadelphia's Jim Eisenreich -- talking, talking, but getting nowhere.

Walker obviously would be more than a bench player for whatever team acquires him, and the Expos are seeking a 3-for-1 package of Orioles prospects that could include minor-league outfielder Alex Ochoa and pitcher Armando Benitez.

Eisenreich is a lesser player who would command less of a price. The Phillies wanted Mike Schmidt -- oops, Leo Gomez -- but now that they've traded Wes Chamberlain, they'll need Eisenreich to platoon with Billy Hatcher in right.

Smith? The Orioles could have signed him for $750,000 last winter, but when they passed, the Angels acquired him for $700,000 instead. Smith is a .285 lifetime hitter, but a liability in the outfield. The Angels have been trying to dump him for weeks.

Clearly, it would be a gamble to trade the hard-throwing Pennington for a 30-year-old bench player. Then again, manager Johnny Oates and pitching coach Dick Bosman aren't huge Pennington fans, so the deal might be best for all concerned.

Whatever, the situation is turning urgent. The Orioles have dropped three straight home games to Detroit. In the first two, they were unable to hit for Tim Hulett in the late innings. Last night, they were shut down by the 2-8 Tim Belcher.

Their roster is the most imbalanced in baseball -- it includes only four left-handed or switch-hitters, the lowest total in the majors. Dwight Smith would be more useful to this team than the two Right Smiths, Mark and Lonnie. Mark had seven at-bats in three weeks before getting demoted last night.

Why didn't anyone see this coming?

Hemond says that the Orioles' lineup appeared so solid, manager Johnny Oates didn't figure to use many pinch-hitters. He also contends that Paul Carey could have been a left-handed bench player, if he hadn't broken his left forearm in spring training.

It was impeccable logic, assuming:

A) None of the regulars got hurt.

B) Carey could perform in a veteran's role as a rookie.

And, C) Jeffrey Hammonds could play 150 games in only his second professional season.

Surprise! Hemond went 0-for-3.

In Hemond's defense, he fulfilled manager Johnny Oates' greater wish, finding a second left-handed reliever (Tom Bolton) to replace Pennington. And he got lucky when he couldn't trade Leo Gomez or acquire a left-handed hitter -- Gomez replaced Chris Sabo and got hot.

Still, Oates should never have been handcuffed like this. The plan should have been for Hammonds to play 120 games, with a veteran left-handed hitter replacing him against tough right-handers in the rest. That way, the Orioles would have been protected, injuries or not.

As it stands, it's pathetically easy to match up with this team -- an opposing manager can use his top left-handed reliever against Brady Anderson, Rafael Palmeiro and Harold Baines in the seventh or eighth inning, then summon his closer in the ninth. All Oates can do is sit in the dugout, unable to counter.

Where have you gone, Terry Crowley?

Joe Nolan?

Sam Horn?

Bring on Dwight Smith.

Say goodbye to Lonnie.

Bring on Dave Martinez.

Right now, Chito Martinez would look good.

ORIOLES TODAY

Opponent: Detroit Tigers

Site: Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Time: 12:35 p.m.

TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Tigers' Bill Krueger (0-1, 8.66) vs. Orioles' Scott Klingenbeck (major-league debut)

Tickets: Scattered singles remain, not including 183 bleacher and 275 standing-room tickets that go on sale when the gates open.

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