Indians will give Rhodes test

SIDELIGHT

June 28, 1994|By Tom Keegan | Tom Keegan,Sun Staff Writer

CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Indians lead the league in hitting, rank first in slugging percentage and third in home runs.

Kenny Lofton, Carlos Baerga, Albert Belle and Eddie Murray. That is the Mount Rushmore that Orioles left-hander Arthur Rhodes is being asked to conquer in the first start of his return trip to the major leagues.

How long will that trip last? Two starts perhaps?

"He's in the rotation until further notice," Orioles manager Johnny Oates said. "How many starts he gets will depend on how he pitches."

Rhodes was called up from Triple-A Rochester to replace left-hander Sid Fernandez, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a rib-cage muscle pull. Fernandez will miss two more starts and is eligible to return from the DL on July 4.

The Orioles run the risk of erasing whatever strides Rhodes made during his five-week stay at Triple-A, where he went 3-3 with a 3.21 ERA in six starts.

But it is a risk they are willing to take, given they are in a pennant race. "Our minor-league people said he was throwing the best of anyone we had down there right now," Oates said.

He made six starts for the Orioles before earning a demotion to Rochester when he allowed five earned runs before getting an out in the second inning May 21 at Yankee Stadium.

"We sent him down there so he could pitch every fifth day without skipping any turns, being pushed back three days, pitching on the eighth day, doing all the things a fifth starter has to do," Oates said.

Rhodes' fastball improved in Rochester, according to Oates. "When he left they had him on the gun at 90, 91, 92," Oates said. "We talked to him so much about throwing strikes he might have backed off a little because when he went down there everybody had him throwing 93, 94, 95."

Rhodes said he also worked on mixing his pitches better under the tutelage of Rochester pitching coach Steve Luebber.

"I was throwing my changeup a lot more than when I was up here," Rhodes said. "I was throwing my slider and my changeup for strikes."

Rhodes said he was "a little surprised," to get the call.

Orioles general manager Roland Hemond said Rick Krivda was seriously considered as well. Krivda had a 28-inning scoreless streak broken in his last start, when he allowed four earned runs in 3 2/3 innings.

"It's conceivable if he had thrown another shutout we might have said he was on a real roll," Hemond said. "But Arthur has pitched consistently well except for one ballgame. It was a tough choice. Both of them are talented. It speaks well for Krivda. He continues to make progress. He wins everywhere he pitches. It's great to have them in the wings, too."

Orioles catcher Chris Hoiles was glad to hear Rhodes has been throwing more changeups.

"From what I hear, he's had a lot of success down there and hopefully he can bring that up here," Hoiles said. "He's the kind of guy who can blow away Double-A and Triple-A hitters. Up here, you've got to be more of a pitcher than just a thrower.

"When he went down, he didn't have a lot of pitches to mix in with his fastball. At this level, we're used to guys throwing real hard and no matter how hard a guy is throwing we're going to catch up to his fastball if that's all he's throwing. He worked on his slider and his changeup."

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