Non-start wasn't an attack on McDonald

INSIDE PITCH

September 14, 1995|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Sun Staff Writer

Amid all the confusion, miscommunication, hard feelings or whatever else you want to call it, there's a message for Ben McDonald.

"Don't take it personal, big fella."

Maybe it hasn't exactly been presented that way. Maybe somebody was trying too hard to be too diplomatic. Undoubtedly somebody forgot to point out this isn't strictly a seniority issue.

The Orioles know what McDonald can do. Unfortunately for them, they haven't seen much of that this season. From a purely selfish standpoint they could just tell him: "There's nothing you can show us in these last three weeks except that you're healthy."

That, of course, is exactly what McDonald wants to do -- show the Orioles, and anybody else who might be interested, that he's OK.

But, realistically, he can't prove that in two or three starts.

It was manager Phil Regan's responsibility to announce that Jimmy Haynes, not McDonald, would start last night's game. It was his job to inform the pitchers involved. But it would be folly for anyone to suggest Regan made this decision alone.

General manager Roland Hemond stopped short of saying it was an organization decision, but didn't try to deny there was some input for Regan to consider.

"We had some discussions on it," said Hemond, "but Phil's the manager and it was his decision. You have to take into consideration that Ben has only pitched twice since July 19. He threw 85 pitches in 3 2/3 innings last Thursday, which indicates he was a little spotty."

The Orioles are skating a fine line with McDonald. They can't be certain he'll be here next year because of his potential free agency, but they don't want to aggravate him either.

In the meantime they had Haynes, who led the Triple-A International League in strikeouts (140) and tied for the lead in wins (12) ready to pitch on his regular day.

It was a chance to see Haynes at his best, against the best team in the AL East. They had to be impressed by his seven-inning, three-hit, one-run performance.

Haynes displayed a nasty breaking ball and a lot of poise. But -- and this can't be overemphasized -- they probably didn't learn any more about him last night than they would've learned about McDonald. One game does not a phenom make.

And the chances are very strong that the Orioles will shut Haynes down for the season shortly. This year was his first above Double-A, and this is the latest he's ever pitched in a pro season.

Meanwhile, McDonald got another extended pre-game workout and probably is better prepared for a start than he would've been last night. This is not a question of picking Haynes over McDonald.

It was a logical decision, even if it was perturbing to McDonald. He'll get over it, because basically he's not an illogical or vindictive person.

His anxiety is understandable. And, deep down, he probably understands that the Orioles' first obligation is to look out for their own interests before his. The decision is more about business than personalities.

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