Lesson flies over Goodwin's head in 2-1 loss

September 10, 1995|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,Sun Staff Writer

CLEVELAND -- What can be salvaged from what remains of the Orioles' disappointing season is knowledge. For instance, manager Phil Regan wants to learn more about Curtis Goodwin, in the event he is the manager again in 1996.

And Regan wants Curtis Goodwin to learn more about Curtis Goodwin, in the event Goodwin is the center fielder and leadoff hitter in 1996. Every game is a study session, and Regan wants Goodwin cramming.

He and the Orioles flunked yesterday in a 2-1 loss to the AL Central champion Cleveland Indians. Goodwin misplayed a deep fly ball, a mistake that led to both Cleveland runs, and a strong pitching performance by Orioles rookie left-hander Rick Krivda went for naught.

The Indians won this battle of hangovers, the Orioles seemingly devoid of emotion after Streak Week, and Cleveland recovering from the overnight celebration of its first title since 1954. The Orioles had only two hits, one each by Brady Anderson and Rafael Palmeiro.

Goodwin went 0-for-3, and his average sunk to .282. Respectable for a rookie, but a far cry from the gaudy numbers he put up before the All-Star break, when Goodwin had multi-hit games in 14 of his first 15 games in the majors.

Goodwin's fast start was good for him in this way, Regan said: The rookie knows, at age 22, that he's capable of making an impact in the majors. While hot, Goodwin hit good pitching and bad, hard throwers and soft. He bunted for hits, he drilled line drives through the infield.

But, Regan agreed, the hitting spree may have hurt Goodwin because he never really got into the habit of doing what he'll need to do to be successful in the majors, particularly as a leadoff hitter. Subtle things, like taking more pitches, working the count, making the opposing pitcher labor. Goodwin just hacked away at what looked good.

When he stopped hitting and producing -- incredibly, Goodwin has scored just four runs since the All-Star break, two runs since July 21 -- his failure to take pitches and draw walks became a problem. For about half an hour before yesterday's game, while the Orioles took batting practice, Regan stood and talked with Goodwin in the outfield about what kind of player he is, and what kind of player Regan thinks he needs to be.

"I basically talked to him about what role he needs to play for this ballclub," Regan said. "I talked to him about different situations, like [Friday]. He leads off the sixth inning for us, and he hits the first pitch that he sees and grounds out, when we're losing 3-1.

"The role I want him to think about is doing everything he can to get on base. Walks, bunts, or however he can. Slapping the ball to the left side, trying to beat out a hit. Those are the things he has to do."

Regan notes that in 256 plate appearances, Goodwin has drawn a total of 12 walks. "He's got to do better than that," Regan said. "And I think he will, once he starts thinking about doing these things.

"He's very receptive when you make suggestions to him. I think he really wants to get better."

Yesterday, Goodwin grounded out twice and struck out once, one of many Orioles dominated by Cleveland starter Chad Ogea. Nevertheless, the Orioles would have won had it not been for a misplay by Goodwin in the second inning.

The Orioles scored a run in the first, Anderson doubling down the right-field line, moving to third on a fly ball by Palmeiro and scoring on a fly to center by Bobby Bonilla. Incredibly, this was only the second inning in which the Orioles held a lead against the Indians in the first 37 played between the two teams at Jacobs Field this year.

Krivda walked Dave Winfield leading off the second inning, one of Krivda's very, very few mistakes. Then third baseman Jim Thome slammed a high drive to deep center.

When Goodwin first arrived in the major leagues, he played shallow in center field. But after repeatedly misreading balls hit vTC directly at him -- his first step often wrong -- the Orioles moved Goodwin back, giving him a better chance of catching up to balls hit over his head.

Goodwin was positioned in deep center for Thome's drive, and with the ball hit so high, and Goodwin being perhaps the fastest man in the organization, he had plenty of time to position himself for the catch.

But as Goodwin neared the center-field fence, something bothered him. Maybe it was the sun, Anderson said. Krivda thought the swirling winds may have confused Goodwin. Regan talked about how a glare shines off the private suites behind home plate (Goodwin didn't stick around to shed any light on the debate, departing the clubhouse quickly after the game).

No matter. Goodwin pulled up, and the high fly bounced off the base of the wall. Winfield scored easily, and Thome wound up at third with a triple. Alvaro Espinoza flied to left, and Thome scored.

And that was just about it. The Orioles' offense over the last eight innings was composed of a single by Palmeiro in the third, and walks to Bonilla and Greg Zaun in the sixth and seventh innings, respectively.

"The same old story," Regan said. "We didn't score any runs."

Old news, at a time when the Orioles are left to search for knowledge.

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