Oquist jabs at Yanks' left hooks


June 15, 1994|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Sun Staff Writer

The second time around against the New York Yankees was a truer -- and tougher -- test for Mike Oquist. And the fact that the game-time temperature was 97 degrees at Camden Yards last night was only a minor contributing factor.

In contrast to his first appearance, a scoreless seven-inning stint in New York on May 21, this time Oquist had to face the Yankees' full left-handed-hitting lineup. For a right-hander like Oquist, it is a totally different game with Luis Polonia, Wade Boggs and Paul O'Neill in the lineup.

The presence of those three hitters had a definite, and wearing, effect as Oquist struggled through the first five innings last night. In his previous outing against the Yankees, Oquist was used in relief of left-hander Arthur Rhodes -- and Don Mattingly was the only true left-handed hitter he had to face.

That was the kind of role originally envisioned for Oquist when he was promoted from Triple-A Rochester. The idea was to use him primarily in long relief, preferably behind a left-handed starter, against lineups stacked with right-handed hitters.

He may yet surface in that role, but with Rhodes out as the Orioles' No. 5 starter, Oquist is currently a regular member of the starting rotation. As such he'll have to deal with more left-handed hitters and most likely make adjustments in his style.

From the outset last night, Oquist went deeper into the count than normal. In five-plus innings, he threw 84 pitches, almost equally divided between balls and strikes. Of the four batters he walked, three were swinging from the left side.

Without an outstanding pitch to use against left-handed hitters, Oquist has to rely on variety and pinpoint control. He didn't have either last night, but neither did he give in to the hitters, a common fault of most young pitchers.

In the fifth inning, Oquist walked Boggs and Mattingly to force in the Yankees' first run, but it might have been worse if either had put the ball in play. Oquist had to get Danny Tartabull to hit into a force on a 3-and-1 pitch to survive the inning.

More than a work of art, Oquist's performance last night was an exercise in patience and persistence.

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