Orioles' Seminara has made strike work to his advantage

March 03, 1995|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,Sun Staff Writer

SARASOTA, Fla. -- The strike has been awful for major-league players, owners, front-office staff, vendors -- just about everybody.

Just about everybody except for Frank Seminara, a minor-league pitcher in the Orioles' camp.

"This situation has really benefited me," said Seminara, 27. "I can't tell you how much."

If there was no strike and the major leaguers were here, Seminara would be one of a dozen or so pitchers trying to win one of a few open spots on the Orioles' pitching staff, a nonroster invitee trying to force his way into the minds of manager Phil Regan and the coaching staff.

Instead, he has their full attention, and right now, he might be the best pitcher in camp. With the help of Triple-A pitching coach Claude Osteen, Seminara has corrected a flaw in his delivery and is throwing the ball extremely well. He threw two shutout innings in an intrasquad game Wednesday, inducing a double-play grounder with his hard sinker.

"He's been impressive," said Regan. "He's one of those people we'd be thinking about as a middle reliever.

"I don't think there's any question [the strike] has helped him."

His luck in avoiding strike ramifications began last year, at a time when his career was on the decline. Shortly before the strike began, Seminara was dropped off the Mets' 40-man roster, demoted to Triple-A Norfolk.

Seminara won nine games as a rookie with the Padres in 1992. But in '93, his mechanics began to break down. His arm was dragging far behind his body, his sinker stopped dipping, he lost velocity, and San Diego sent him to the minors. Before the '94 season, the Padres sent him to the Mets.

Seminara continued to struggle, allowing 20 hits and eight walks in 17 innings for New York, his ERA rising to 5.82. Unimpressed, the Mets outrighted him to Triple-A Norfolk.

The strike began within days, and Seminara got his first break: Because he had been sent to the minors, he continued to pitch and get paid.

He signed with the Orioles in November as a minor-league free agent. Seminara had an offer to play winter ball, but instead he took the advice of Orioles player development director Syd Thrift and began working with a trainer.

Thrift suggested Seminara should improve his flexibility; in November, Seminara couldn't touch his toes. By the start of spring training, Seminara could rub the second knuckles of his fingers against the floor.

"You've got to get the body sound," Thrift said, "and then you worry about the other stuff."

Osteen has taken it from there, adjusting Seminara's mechanics and his mental focus. It's as if, Seminara told Regan last week, that Osteen has painted a picture for him. A very clear picture.

"He told me, 'See yourself drive the ball through the strike zone,' " Seminara said. "His attitude was, 'Hey, you've got the goods, now let's start using them.'

"All of a sudden my pitch is moving well. Granted, this isn't the major leagues, but just by judging how these guys are swinging the bats, they're anxious, they're getting tied up."

Regan said, "They don't like hitting against him."

For Seminara to complete his comeback, he needs the strike -- which has been so good to him so far -- to end.

NOTES: After a morning workout yesterday, minor-leaguers assigned to Triple-A Rochester and Double-A Bowie packed their gear and moved to St. Petersburg. The first intrasquad game will be today at 1 p.m. at the Huggins-Stengel Field. The minor-leaguers are being paid major-league meal money. . . . The Orioles have agreed to play Eckerd College, which is based in St. Petersburg, in an exhibition. . . . The Orioles will hold a tryout for high school graduates from ages 18-23 tomorrow morning at their complex in Sarasota.

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