Eichhorn relieved by turnaround

SIDELIGHT

June 02, 1994|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Sun Staff Writer

The innings are starting to pile up for reliever Mark Eichhorn, and he wouldn't have it any other way.

When things are at their best for Eichhorn, as they appear to be right now, he's getting the ball early in the game and is charged with keeping the opposition close until the offense can get going.

Going into last night's game with the Detroit Tigers, Eichhorn has been doing his job well, blanking opponents over his past nine appearances, covering 14 innings.

"It's just like hitting, I guess. Sometimes, it goes in streaks and I seem to be in one right now," said Eichhorn. "These last two weeks, I've had a pretty good idea of what I'm doing. Sometimes, when you're in a bit of a funk, like I was at the start of the season, you're not sure what's wrong."

Eichhorn, who signed in December as a free agent after spending most of the past two seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays, started the season slowly. He had rocky outings against the Texas Rangers in which his ERA ballooned to 7.56 on May 1.

A finesse pitcher who needs pinpoint location, Eichhorn was putting his pitches in the wrong locations.

"I just felt like I didn't have good control. I wasn't walking guys, but I was wild in the strike zone, and guys were hitting me," he said.

Eichhorn had been a proven commodity in Toronto, California and Atlanta, his previous stops, where he compiled a 41-36 record with a 2.99 career ERA. But he had something to prove in Baltimore, where he was expected to take the innings previously reserved for Todd Frohwirth.

"I've always had confidence in myself, but there might be certain situations where a sidearm pitcher isn't what the percentages call for," said Eichhorn. "He [manager Johnny Oates] might have been playing percentages, and I fully understand that."

Flash forward to May, where Eichhorn and the formerly maligned bullpen seemed to get going.

"His ball is moving again. He got back to the sinker," said Oates. "He didn't have the location early. Now he's got it sinking and moving and he's making good pitches."

Eichhorn has turned in two sparkling performances in the past week alone. On May 24 in Milwaukee, Eichhorn pitched 4 1/3 shutout relief innings in support of Sid Fernandez, striking out five and walking only one, giving up four hits to get the win in a 13-5 Orioles victory.

On Tuesday night, Eichhorn was just as effective, blanking the Tigers over 4 1/3 innings, giving up two hits and striking out two, issuing only an intentional walk in a game the Orioles lost 7-6, after rallying from a 7-2 hole.

"If we'd have come back and scored one more run, it would have been terrific," said Eichhorn. "Through the course of the season, there's going to be five to 10 games where a long reliever has to come in and shut them down. I feel adaptable and able to pitch in that situation."

Despite the heavy recent workload, Eichhorn, who has made 249 appearances in the past four seasons, pronounced himself ready for duty again last night.

"I'm used to a lot of appearances. I'm like a lot of finesse pitchers where the more often you pitch, the better off it's going to be," said Eichhorn.

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