Goodwin adds power to electric start in 6-2 O's win

July 02, 1995|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,Sun Staff Writer

TORONTO -- The time will come when Orioles rookie center fielder Curtis Goodwin isn't getting two hits a day. He will slump, and, for the first time, he will have to learn how to deal with failure in the big leagues. Someday.

But not now.

Goodwin had a single, double and his first major-league homer in the Orioles' 6-2 victory over Toronto yesterday, and after his first month in the big leagues -- he was called up June 2, remember -- Goodwin is batting .370, which is almost 100 points higher than what he hit for Double-A Bowie last year.

Jamie Moyer, the Orioles' expectant father, pitched 7 1/3 innings and then, without knowing the game's outcome, hustled off to the airport. Somebody by now has given him the good news: It's a victory, a six-hit, no-walk win for the left-hander. Cigars for everybody in orange.

The first three hitters in the Orioles lineup -- Goodwin, Manny Alexander and Rafael Palmeiro -- combined to go 9-for-13, with four runs and five RBIs, and the Orioles pulled to within seven games of the first-place Boston Red Sox in the AL East.

Goodwin has 16 multi-hit games in his first 29 major-league games, and his average has never been lower than .329. Goodwin's teammates and manager Phil Regan are reluctant to embrace his quick start, for fear of putting too much pressure on the rookie.

Regan has been asked a half-dozen times if he expects Goodwin to keep getting two hits a day, and Regan smiles in response and says he doesn't know and he's just happy Goodwin is doing as well as he is. Some teammates say privately that Goodwin's big test will come with his first slump, inevitable for every player; like reliever Armando Benitez, he will face adversity.

But veteran outfielder Kevin Bass laughs at the idea that Goodwin will be bothered by a slump. Bass sees something very rare in Goodwin.

"He doesn't dwell on the negative," Bass said. "He's too cool to let something bother him. It's part of his personality.

"It's almost like Wade Boggs, and Tony Gwynn and Will Clark, and the way they perceive what happens. If a pitcher gets them out, they're not thinking that 'The pitcher got me out.' It's like, 'I got myself out.' They don't give the pitchers too much credit."

What Bass meant is that Boggs and Gwynn and Clark don't concede a counterproductive amount of respect to the pitcher; they have complete confidence in themselves. Curtis Goodwin, Bass says, has that type of confidence.

"I don't think," Bass said, "Curtis gives these guys too much credit."

Bass notes, too, that Goodwin already has faced failure, and stared it down. Goodwin had two hits in each of his first three big-league games, June 2-4, and on June 5, he faced Randy Johnson of the Seattle Mariners.

Johnson embarrassed Goodwin. Struck him out four times, a total mismatch. The next day, Goodwin had two hits, and at least bTC two hits a day for the next six games after that.

"You talk to him," said Regan, "and he never seems overwhelmed."

Right fielder Jeffrey Hammonds said: "He's young, he's brash, he's confident. It's hard to believe that it's only been two years since I got called up for the first time . . . and maybe that's the way I was.

"I'm going to talk to him and make sure he keeps it."

Goodwin's confidence was on display against Toronto left-hander Al Leiter, who would say afterward that he really had no idea how to pitch the rookie left-handed hitter. He doubled in the first inning, and with the score tied 1-1 in the fifth, he reached out and slammed an opposite-field two-run homer. As he rounded first, Goodwin pumped a fist, and rounding third, he cocked his right elbow high in the air.

Former San Francisco outfielder Jeffrey Leonard held his left hand low during his home-run trot. One flap down, he called it. Goodwin was going with one flap up.

He gave another sign as he neared home plate. "I know I tapped my chest twice," said Goodwin. "A little peace thing."

This, for his first homer since May 22, 1994, when he was playing for Bowie against New Britain. Peace.

The Orioles scored another run in the fifth, taking a 4-1 lead, and then with one out in the ninth, he singled home Bret Barberie, a line drive to right field, for his third RBI. Goodwin eventually scored the Orioles' sixth run, which they almost needed.

In the bottom of the ninth, Orioles closer Doug Jones loaded the bases, giving up a double and two walks, before getting Mike Huff to end the game with a lineout.

As Goodwin walked through a line of teammates exchanging the usual post-game congratulations, Regan attempted to give Goodwin a handshake that Arthur Rhodes had taught the manager: Slap hands high, and again low. Regan missed, because Goodwin was moving too fast.

Everybody is having a hard time catching Curtis Goodwin, a young man in a hurry.

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