Flanagan is thrown a curve

SIDELIGHT

September 16, 1995|By Brad Snyder | Brad Snyder,Sun Staff Writer

Mike Flanagan's first year as the Orioles' pitching coach hasn't been easy.

"It's been a roller coaster," Flanagan said.

Flanagan wasn't even strapped in for the ride.

The shortened spring training gave Flanagan little time to adjust to a new job, a new manager and, most importantly, a largely unfamiliar cast of pitchers.

"Without spring training, it took me a little longer to find guys key points in their deliveries," Flanagan said. "Every guy has a key point. You had less time in spring training to find each one."

Flanagan was a detective without any clues.

But there have been some positives.

Flanagan has been effective with fellow left-handers. Jamie Moyer credited Flanagan with Moyer's success as a starting pitcher, and the coach helped several other lefties with their pickoff moves.

Some of the overall numbers are good, compared to the rest of the league. The Orioles' pitchers, partly because of their defense and partly because of good pitching, had given up the fewest hits (1,082) and had the fifth-lowest team ERA (4.56) through Thursday's games.

Other numbers are bad. The Orioles have served up six grand slams, a sign of inexperience, making the wrong pitch at the worst time.

"We've given up too many grand slams," Flanagan said. "If we took them off the team ERA, I think we'd be the second-best pitching team in the league."

Then there are the injuries. Shoulder surgery hit Mark Eichhorn, Alan Mills and Arthur Rhodes. Kevin Brown (broken finger) and Ben McDonald (shoulder tendinitis) have spent substantial time on the disabled list. Only Mike Mussina has made every start.

Flanagan refused to use injuries as excuses.

"I feel like I've made progress with everybody," he said. "I would hope to get them pitching a little better or else I'm not doing doing my job."

Flanagan, winner of the Cy Young Award in 1979 and 167 career games, said he enjoys imparting the Oriole Way philosophy -- work fast, throw strikes -- to his pitchers.

"It's very rewarding and satisfying to see something you told them show up out there on the field," he said.

If life as a pitching coach is a roller-coaster ride, Flanagan has no intention of getting off.

He is a competitive man who, in a season of successes and failures, remains optimistic about making a third World Series appearance.

"I know you've been there as a player," Miller told Flanagan, "but when you take a pitching staff to the World Series, it's even better because you're pitching every night."

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