Erickson beats 'em, joins 'em

July 08, 1995|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,Sun Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- The angry demeanor of Orioles manager Phil Regan after losses is becoming a trademark. Chucks his microphone, cuts off questions, snaps at stupid queries, etc.

So it seemed strange that after Minnesota Twins right-hander Scott Erickson held the Orioles to three hits over eight innings Tuesday night, Regan was so gracious in his respect for Erickson. That guy has great stuff, Regan said. Pitched a great game. A sinking fastball about 88-92 mph. Not much you can do.

Turns out that, that afternoon, Regan found out the Orioles had a good chance of dealing for Erickson -- a trade that came down yesterday, when the Twins swapped the 27-year-old pitcher for Orioles right-hander Scott Klingenbeck and a player to be named, either minor-leaguer Kimera Bartee or Damon Buford.

"Watching him," Regan said, smiling, "I knew that we were probably going to have him very soon. I was glad to see him pitch well, because I knew I was going to get him. I just wish he had lost, 2-1, instead of beating us."

Erickson beat the Orioles, and joined them. He'll make his Orioles debut tomorrow, against the White Sox. "I think it's a great addition for us," Regan said. "I think it's a great trade for us."

Erickson said: "It's a good move for me. I pick up a few games in the standings. I'll pitch on grass and in a nice ballpark. This turf is not good for my style of pitching. Baltimore is, and I'm looking forward to it."

No one doubts Erickson's ability. He won 20 games for the Twins in 1991, and even pitched a no-hitter in 1994. He is very similar to Orioles right-hander Kevin Brown, throwing a sinking fastball that can be death on bat handles.

But Erickson, who got some throwing in in the bullpen last night, has pitched badly in recent years, his ERA rising to 5.19 in 1993 and to 5.44 in '94. This year, he's 4-6 with a 5.95 ERA. His sinker has hurt him on artificial surfaces. He's got a 3.73 ERA on grass during his career, and a 4.51 ERA on artificial turf, and some scouts think he may have fallen into the habit of trying to overpower hitters, rather than make them hit his nasty sinker.

Twins manager Tom Kelly and pitching coach Dick Such have encouraged Erickson to develop an off-speed pitch, which he did only recently. In beating the Orioles on Tuesday, Erickson bTC threw a forkball for the first time, which he'll use as his change of speed.

The Twins dealt Erickson as part of their effort to trim payroll; they traded reliever Rick Aguilera to Boston on Thursday, and had Minnesota not dealt Erickson, they likely would've opted not to tender him a contract this off-season.

"It looks like they're going to change the whole team. It's a joke. It makes a fool out of anybody who's a Minnesota Twins fan," said Erickson.

The addition of Erickson, who has a $1,862,500 salary, creates a logjam in the Orioles rotation. Once Brown and Ben McDonald are activated from the disabled list, the Orioles will have six starters for five spots, with Arthur Rhodes likely being the odd man out -- possibly to return to the minors.

"I haven't come to any conclusions yet," said Regan. "I'm not going to say today, because every time you plan something, something else happens. Somebody gets hurt. You never have enough pitching, and when the time comes to make that decision, we'll make it."

Minnesota's first choice for the player to be named is center fielder Bartee, currently on the roster of Double-A Bowie. Bartee started the year at Triple-A Rochester, and hit poorly (.163) before being demoted.

Bartee batted .283 and stole 19 bases in 40 games for Bowie before breaking his hand, and some in the organization think he may be out the rest of the year. The Twins want to see Bartee play again before they take him, whether it be late in the minor-league season or in the Arizona Fall League. If the Twins don't want Bartee, they'll take center fielder Damon Buford, who began the year with the Orioles but was sent to Triple-A after going 2-for-32, and who has been outspoken about being moved to another organization.

The Twins, at present, lack a true center fielder; they played Kirby Puckett there in Camden Yards last week for a game. But because the team has the worst record in baseball, there's no reason to rush in their choice between Bartee and Buford.

SCOTT ERICKSON FILE

Born: Feb. 2, 1968. Height: 6-4. Weight: 234. Bats: Right. Throws: Right.

1989: Had 11 strikeouts in professional debut vs. Bakersfield. . . . Twins' Minor League Player of the Week, July 3-9. 1990: Won major-league debut, 9-1, June 25 vs. Texas. . . . Pitched first complete game on Sept. 8 in win vs. Cleveland. 1991: American League Pitcher of the Month for May, posting 5-0 record, 1.36 ERA. . . . Tied for most wins in the majors. . . . Runner-up to Roger Clemens in AL Cy Young balloting. 1992: Led Twins pitchers in shutouts, and tied for lead in complete games. . . . Pitched six-plus innings in 16 of last 20 starts and 21 of 32 total. 1993: Led majors in losses. . . . Allowed most hits and runs in majors and was second in earned runs. 1994: Had first career no-hitter, April 27 in 6-0 win vs. Milwaukee. . . . Had career-high 10 strikeouts, May 14 vs. Orioles.

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