No matter how you slice his pizza, Fernandez lacks pop in his pitch

April 22, 1995|By JOHN EISENBERG

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- When heart problems forced Artie Donovan to quit drinking beer a few years ago, at least in theory, three guys who worked for the beer company got fired, Artie said. Such was the volume of his supply.

Along those lines, now that the Orioles' Sid Fernandez feels he has lost the zip on his fastball because he lost all that weight in the off-season, Domino's might need to hire a gaggle of new employees to handle the imminent crush.

If Sid thinks he needs to gain back those 40 lost pounds to become a better power pitcher, pizza sales are going to rise sharply, and in a hurry, too. Sid's first regular-season start is next week. There's no time to waste.

Out of a sense of civic duty, to help the Orioles help Sid, uh, round back into shape, I'm offering the club the services of my mother as a personal eating coach. Putting years of practice to use, she'll follow Sid around 24 hours a day saying, "Eat, honey, eat."

And, at no extra charge, this: "Don't you think it's too hot outside to go jogging?"

Of course, it's possible Sid won't need a lot of encouragement in this expansion endeavor. He has waited his entire career for the moment when his training regimen called for pepperoni, with extra cheese, as often as possible.

Coming soon to newspaper want ads near you: "Delivery drivers needed. Make money. Meet people. Help the Birds' starting rotation."

For those who missed it, Sid complained about his lack of bulk on Wednesday, after his second straight mediocre spring outing. In three innings against the Twins, he allowed five hits, six runners and two runs. He was supposed to pitch four innings, but was in such constant trouble that he reached his pitch limit in three and had to come out.

Upon leaving the game, he threw his glove in a trash can and slunk into the corner of the clubhouse.

"I feel like a little wimp," he said.

"What's the use of looking good if you can't get anyone out?" he said.

Whether he looks "good" minus the extra 40 pounds (your call) isn't what matters, of course. Whether he can pitch well enough to justify his $9 million contract is what matters.

He was a big bust last year, in more ways than one, finishing at 6-6 (record) and 262 (pounds), with a 5.15 ERA, the latter a full two points higher than what he compiled in 257 National League appearances spanning 11 seasons.

As he tells the story, he finally tired of being overweight last winter when he found he couldn't play 18 holes of golf without his knees almost buckling. Thus, the strict off-season diet resulting in a new Sid so thin it has become necessary to refer to him this spring as El Si, because there is so much less of him he needs one less consonant.

But now it turns out his fastball profits from those extra jiggles at the waistband, or so he believes. More oomph behind it, or whatever.

Needless to say, a conspiracy is possible. Sid could be tricking the club into suggesting that he needs to start eating again. (I'm shocked. Shocked!) You can be sure that a gourmand as prolific as he is doesn't enjoy losing a lot of weight and keeping it off. How can a strict program of self-denial compare with the joys of "all you can eat?"

Orioles manager Phil Regan, wise in the ways of pitchers, isn't ready to buy Sid's theory just yet. Regan pointed out that power pitchers often start slowly in spring training, much more so than finesse pitchers, because they need time to build up their arms to the point where they can throw 90-plus mph.

So, maybe his slow start is normal. And maybe it won't turn out that he has to re-bulk.

We can only hope he needs to, of course. The world is already overloaded with fitness freaks. If it turns out that eating pizzas sends Sid on his way to a 20-win season, there could be a huge overhaul in the baseball mind-set.

Doughnuts galore in the clubhouse before games.

Double-rich chocolate cake waiting for the players after the last out.

Fat guys all over the place!

OC Incredible, but true: Sid could save baseball. Eat, honey, eat.

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