Eichhorn locates release, finds good groove


June 06, 1994|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Sun Staff Writer

Mark Eichhorn's season appears to have started almost a month late. It's as though somebody threw the pitch switch to the "on" position May 1 instead of April 4.

As sophisticated as baseball has become, nobody can fully explain how these things happen -- they just do. In Eichhorn's case, the missing ingredients were easy to identify.

When the sidearming right-hander threw the ball early in the season, there was no movement and generally poor location. He was releasing the ball too soon, and paying a heavy price (a 7.56 earned run average).

It's easy to pinpoint when the turnaround took place -- Eichhorn hasn't allowed a run since May 1. Why the turnaround occurred isn't quite as simple to explain, though persistence played a prominent role.

"The only thing I can trace it [his recent success] to is throwing every day in the bullpen, tiring my arm out while trying to find a release point," said Eichhorn. He had just thrown two scoreless innings and picked up his second victory in the Orioles' 8-5 win over the Chicago White Sox.

Movement and location are the key elements for Eichhorn. And he's such a finesse pitcher that neither is possible without a precise release point. "You don't wear yourself out to the point it's harmful," said Eichhorn, "but the only way to find it [the proper release point] is to keep throwing.

"We [he and pitching coach Dick Bosman] worked every day on three or four different things. You just have to keep doing it until you get sharp -- then back off."

According to Bosman, continued throwing is the only way to rediscover the release point, especially for an unorthodox pitcher such as Eichhorn. "I'm proud of the way he went about it," Bosman said. "We'd go out there [the bullpen] and throw three to five minutes every day."

Manager Johnny Oates can see the difference, but he can't explain it. "It's just like [ex-Oriole] Todd Frohwirth -- I don't know how those guys [sidearm pitchers] get into or out of it, but their release point has to be just right.

"Earlier in the year his [Eichhorn's] pitches were just rolling up there. But now you can almost see his hand fully extended before he releases the ball.

"Earlier in the year, I couldn't have let him go back out there [to pitch the eighth inning after the Orioles went ahead with four runs in the seventh]," Oates said. "I couldn't have let him face those left-handers [Lance Johnson and Mike LaValliere]. But he made it look easy."

Putting eight runs on the board yesterday was almost a novelty for the Orioles, but the two scoreless innings turned in by Eichhorn were pivotal. Manager Gene Lamont said the key to the game for the White Sox was their inability to shut down the Orioles after they took a 5-1 lead.

"The turning point was when we couldn't hold them when we scored three times [in the fifth] and they came right back with three," he said. When the Orioles got four more in the seventh to take the lead, Eichhorn was able to shut the White Sox down until Lee Smith made his obligatory ninth-inning appearance to gain his 21st save.

Another triumph for movement, location -- and the proper release point.

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