Regan says O's can't skip over Fernandez

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

May 29, 1995|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,Sun Staff Writer

SEATTLE -- Sid Fernandez has an 8.35 ERA and he hasn't pitched beyond the fifth inning in any of his five starts. Ugly.

But even though Orioles manager Phil Regan could skip Fernandez in the rotation this week -- the O's have an off day Thursday -- he may pitch him anyway. Regan thinks Fernandez needs the work, and the Orioles need Fernandez.

"If you're going to win, you can't continue to pass him over," Regan said.

At some point, the Orioles will need Fernandez to pitch well against good teams vulnerable to left-handed pitching, like New York and Cleveland.

"Over the long haul, you can't continue to skip him," Regan said. "He gets extra rest, sure, but he needs work and passing him over doesn't always help him. Sometimes it hurts him, and could affect his confidence."

Keeping the runners close

Pitching coach Mike Flanagan has been working with Fernandez, Ben McDonald and others about doing a better job of holding runners, and he said he thinks the pitchers are improving in this category.

Several times Saturday night, Fernandez delivered the ball to home out of his stretch in 1.3 seconds, far below his previous standard of 1.7 seconds. "They could be a little quicker at times," Regan said, "but I think they're getting better."

The success of opposing base stealers has become a major concern for the Orioles. Opponents have swiped 30 bases in 38 attempts, and are on pace to steal 160 bases in a 144-game season.

Flanagan must also be aware of the danger of having the pitchers worry too much about base runners. "It does no good if you hold the guy great and the batter hits the ball into the seats," Flanagan said. "Everything a pitcher does to hold a runner on has the potential of affecting his mechanics [to the plate]."

Gomez gets pep talk

Regan met with deposed third baseman Leo Gomez yesterday about keeping his chin up and making sure he stays positive at a time when he's sitting on the bench. "I was just trying to pick him up a little bit," Regan said. "I want him to stay ready to play and keep working at it. . . . You never know when you're called upon."

In speaking to Gomez, Regan cited the example of Kevin Bass, who was hitting well as a regular player but went back to the bench Saturday with the return of Jeffrey Hammonds and Andy Van Slyke.

"He could've gotten mad or moped," Regan said, referring to Bass, "but he was in the proper frame of mind."

On Saturday night, Bass delivered a two-run pinch single that was key in the Orioles' 11-4 victory.

Is Gooden a good gamble?

Some Orioles were talking Saturday night about how they hope the team attempts to sign former New York Mets pitcher Dwight Gooden if he's reinstated in June. Team officials say the idea hasn't been discussed, but may be in the future. If and when they do talk about it, there are many pros and cons to consider.

* The pros: If the Orioles don't start getting better results from their third, fourth and fifth starters, they'll want to sign another pitcher. Gooden pitched poorly for the Mets last year, but he's been working out intensely in Florida, and as one baseball executive said, "If he's half of what he was, you've got yourself a pretty good pitcher."

Signing Gooden could be expensive, especially since the New York Yankees may take a run at him and drive up the price, and that may seem like a gamble considering his history. But if Orioles signed Gooden for, say, $4 million over two years, and his drug problem manifests itself again, they would not be obligated to pay him.

Despite his drug problem, Gooden is considered a good clubhouse guy, well-liked by his former teammates.

* The cons: Gooden is a multiple offender of baseball's drug policy, and as recently as March, he was stopped in Florida for driving over 100 mph. The arresting officer found an open bottle of beer in the car, although Gooden maintains he was not intoxicated.

Would the Orioles want to make personnel decisions and put their trust in a guy with a problem that could drive him out of baseball at any time?

Tough call.

Parting shot

Some Orioles needled Cal Ripken a little about getting five infield hits in the first two games of the series. "I saw Willie McGee get 75 of those in a season," said Van Slyke. "But I never saw Willie do somersaults to get them."

Van Slyke was referring to a play Friday night in which Ripken ran hard at the bag, successfully lunged with his last step, then, as he lost his balance, did a forward roll about 20 feet past first base.

HITS AND MISSES

On the field: Not a good weekend for the Mariners. First they lost center fielder Ken Griffey and then last night second baseman Joey Cora and replacement center fielder Alex Diaz were involved in a head-on collision on a pop-up into short center in the top of the first inning last night. Cora suffered a laceration of his lip; X-rays on his cheek were negative. Diaz got up slowly but remained in the game.

In the dugout: Mariners manager Lou Piniella was forced to make do, shifting starting third baseman Doug Strange to second base to replace Cora and inserting Mike Blowers at third. Blowers, a burly, lumbering slugger, went into the unlikely role of leadoff hitter.

In the clubhouse: "We don't need to find out about Sid [Fernandez]. I'm confident that Sid's going to help us this year." -- Orioles manager Phil Regan

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