An up-and-down game for Hoiles Catcher's hitting improves, but throwing still a problem

Orioles notebook

March 17, 1996|By Jason LaCanfora | Jason LaCanfora,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

WEST PALM BEACH, FLA. SUN STAFF WRITER BUSTER OLNEY CONTRIBUTED TO THIS ARTICLE. — WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Catcher Chris Hoiles improved at the plate in the Orioles' 7-4 loss to Atlanta yesterday, but his play behind the plate remains less than impressive.

Fred McGriff and Jeff Blauser stole second base on Hoiles, who has thrown out only one of six base stealers this spring. Blauser, who stole eight bases last year, made it look easy yesterday. Hoiles' throw barely cleared the infield grass and bounced well short of the base.

He could not be faulted on McGriff's steal. The slugger had such a jump on Scott Erickson's pitch that the play did not even warrant a throw to second.

"I'm working on my mechanics," Hoiles said. "My arm strength is not where I'd like it to be, but it's more a footwork problem. I'm not concerned with my arm. It feels good."

Hoiles broke out of a 1-for-26 slump with a base hit off Braves reliever Mark Wohlers in the sixth inning. He made good contact throughout the game and drove a ball to deep center field in the fourth inning that was knocked down by the wind.

"It's coming," Hoiles said. "I'm just trying to make contact and slow down at the plate. I've been hitting the ball hard the last four or five days. It's been real positive."

Tarasco breaks out

Tony Tarasco also broke out of a slump yesterday.

Tarasco got his first hit as an Oriole in the second inning, a shot between first and second base. He turned on a ball in the sixth inning and it easily cleared the wall in right, but blew just foul. Coming into the game Tarasco was 1-for-23.

"It's about time I got a hit," said Tarasco, who also got his first two RBIs, on a sacrifice fly and a fielder's choice. "I'm still confident at the plate. I'm just trying to get ready for the season. I only had one hit all of last spring."

Baltimore assistant general manager Kevin Malone, who traded for Tarasco when he was Montreal's GM, said he could tell the outfielder was ready to come alive because Tarasco has been pounding balls in batting practice. Tarasco has also been battling a sore shoulder, but he should be 100 percent by early next week.

"The shoulder doesn't bother me when I'm hitting," Tarasco said. "It's just a problem when I'm throwing. It's still something that's on your mind, though. I like to have all of my tools when I play."

Bulletin: Cal's OK

Rumors were circulating around the Orioles' camp that Cal Ripken sprained his ankle in Friday's game against the Mets.

"It's less than true," said John Maroon, Baltimore's public relations director. "There's absolutely nothing to it."

Starting strong

Erickson made another strong start yesterday, allowing four hits and one run in five innings.

Erickson struck out five batters and walked one. It was the second time Erickson pitched five innings and he has thrown 16 innings this spring nearly twice the total of any other Baltimore pitcher. His 1.13 earned run average is second to only Rick Krivda's 1.00 ERA.

"The longer he went, the better he threw," manager Davey Johnson said. "He threw 77 pitches, right where we want him to be."

Around the horn

Pitcher Billy Percibal, one of the Orioles' top prospects, will visit the Dr. William Andrews in Alabama on Tuesday and have his right elbow checked. Percibal last pitched two weeks ago, but has had lingering pain in the elbow, which required surgery in the past. . . . Kent Mercker will start today in the 10: 30 a.m. B game against the Mets and David Wells will start the A game. Mercker is coming off the flu and Wells is pitching for the first time since experiencing an irregular heart beat last week. . . . Starter Mike Mussina said he felt good after throwing on the side yesterday and is ready to pitch against Montreal tomorrow. . . . Mike Devereaux played for the first time since missing a week with a sore hamstring. Devereaux went 1-for-3, played left field and ran well, breaking up a double play in the third inning. . . . Bill Ripken started at first base for the first time this spring. Jeff Huson, another utility infielder, replaced Ripken at first in the seventh.

Up and downs

Highlights and lowlights from the Orioles' 7-4 loss to the Atlanta Braves yesterday:

Ups

* Scott Erickson had another fine start, allowing four hits and one run in five innings.

* Tony Tarasco got his first hit and RBIs as an Oriole, breaking an 0-for-5 slump.

* Roger McDowell excelled in middle relief, stranding an inherited runner and retiring three straight batters in the eighth inning.

Downs

* Armando Benitez struggled in his 1 2/3 -inning stint. Benitez gave up three hits in the ninth inning, including Mike Mordecai's game-winning three-run homer with two outs.

* Jesse Orosco had another poor outing, blowing a three-run lead in the seventh inning. Orosco served up four straight hits, capped by Ron Wright's three-run homer, sending his ERA to 16.36.

Pub Date: 3/17/96

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