'New' Rhodes determined to be pitcher, not thrower

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

July 03, 1994|By Tom Keegan | Tom Keegan,Sun Staff Writer Milestones and Memories contributed to this article.

Despite allowing five runs in 4 2/3 innings against the Cleveland Indians in his first start since returning from Triple-A Rochester, Orioles left-hander Arthur Rhodes was praised by his manager and pitching coach.

Both Johnny Oates and Dick Bosman were encouraged by Rhodes' approach because he did more pitching and less throwing than usual. How well Rhodes can translate his new game plan into better results will determine how long he remains in the majors.

"I'm going to do the same thing I did in my last start," said Rhodes, who starts today's series finale against the California Angels. "I'm not going to get all hyped up and try to blow the hitters away. I'm going to try to be like any left-hander and get ground balls and fly balls."

Rhodes drew praise for throwing more changeups and breaking balls on fastball counts.

"I didn't used to use my head enough out there," Rhodes said. "I just picked up the ball and threw it. I'm using my head more."

Rhodes temporarily has taken the place of left-hander Sid Fernandez in the rotation. Fernandez, on the disabled list with a strained rib-cage muscle, threw pain-free for the second time in the bullpen and is eligible to return from the DL tomorrow, but the No. 3 starter's turn next comes up Friday in the second leg of a four-game series against Oakland.

Legging out adversity

Bert Shepard, one of baseball's overlooked heroes, threw out the first pitch before last night's game.

Shepard, a left-hander, pitched in a major-league game for the Washington Senators on Aug. 4, 1945. So what? He had a wooden right leg, that's what. Shepard allowed one run and three hits in five innings against the Boston Red Sox.

Shepard was a minor-league pitcher before becoming a fighter pilot in World War II. He was shot down over Germany and dragged out of his P-38 by a Hungarian doctor who amputated his leg and, Shepard said, "saved my life."

Years later, the doctor tracked him down and phoned him.

Shepard, 74, recently shot a 77 on the golf course, with the help of a pivoting prosthetic ankle.

He never appeared again in a major-league game, but played as a minor-league first baseman through 1952. "I had five stolen bases and beat out a few bunts," he said.

Shepard pitched on 49 years' rest last night. "I think I could have gone an inning or two," he said. "I've had enough rest."

For now, he's just Jeffrey

He can run, throw, catch, hit and hit for power, which makes Jeffrey Hammonds one of those rare five-tool players.

He has it all, except, that is, a nickname.

Outside Pitch, the informative and humorous publication sold outside Camden Yards, is holding a nickname contest for Hammonds.

Among the best suggestions thus far have been The Jersey Jet and The Camden Kid.

Others: Zeus, Jeff The Theft, Hammer Jack, The Spark, Bambino, Hacker and Havoc, a play on a Marvel Comics X-Man character named Havok. "The name indicates that which is about to be unleased on the opposition," said contestant Tony Defina of Ellicott City.

Hammonds' two home runs Friday gave him seven in 133 at-bats. Just how much power does he have?

"I think we're just going to sit back and watch Jeff," Oates said. "I have a figure in my mind, but I think it would be unfair for me to throw it out there and make him try to live up to my expectations.

"He's only going to get better. Right now he's just going up there, seeing the ball and hitting it. He doesn't have enough experience yet to set pitchers up and look for certain pitches on certain counts."

Pop doesn't have much pop

Andy Oates, son of the Orioles manager, hit several home runs over the center-field fence at Memorial Stadium, but he was standing on the outfield grass.

Before last night's game, Andy, now 18, was standing at home plate when he drove one of his father's pitches over the Oriole Park fence during batting practice.

What was the pitch?

"The only one he has," Andy said.

Which is?

"An off-speed fastball," Andy said.

Andy Oates, an outfielder, is headed for Virginia Tech. He will play American Legion ball for Post 284 in Colonial Heights, Va.

Oh no, the ump has red hair

The Orioles have had three ejections thus far this season. John Shulock ejected Oates and Chris Sabo earlier this season. Terry Craft ran Oates from Friday night's game.

What do Shulock and Craft have in common? Red hair.

Going, gone from rotation

Angels left-hander Joe Magrane was demoted to the bullpen after allowing three home runs Friday.

No word yet on whether Cy Young Award contender Mike Mussina, who allowed five home runs in the same game, will be banished to the Orioles' bullpen.

Miscellaneous

Cal Ripken has had two or more hits in six consecutive games. . . . Ben McDonald also was on the losing end in the Orioles' last 1-0 defeat, Aug. 15, 1993, against Scott Kamieniecki and the Yankees.

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