Clinton didn't want first pitch to be wild President practiced with Angelos beforehand

Orioles Notebook

April 04, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Peter Schmuck contributed to this article.

Bill Clinton is known as a deliberate president, wanting as much preparation as possible before making decisions. The same thing applies when it comes to throwing out the first ball of a baseball season.

Before his soft toss to Orioles catcher Chris Hoiles on Opening Day, Clinton stood in the batting cages underneath the stands and practiced with Orioles owner Peter Angelos. And practiced, and practiced.

"He must've thrown 100 pitches," Angelos said yesterday. "He absolutely was not going to go out there and not throw the ball over the plate. He was throwing really well inside."

There was no side banter, Angelos said, no idle chatter as they practiced. "He was intent on what he was doing," Angelos said. "He wasn't playing around."

Think the presidential arm was sore yesterday morning?

"It's very likely," Angelos said, chuckling.

National Security Adviser Tony Lake also took advantage of the indoor cages, taking batting practice. "He was really whacking that ball," Angelos said.

But Clinton didn't try any swings, however. "No, he was just concerned with throwing the ball over the plate," Angelos said. "Catching the Prez, that was pretty good."

Q&A about DH

The Orioles players and staff members attended a Greater Baltimore Committee luncheon, and in a question-and-answer session, one curious soul put manager Davey Johnson on the spot, asking him if he intended to play Bobby Bonilla in the outfield.

Bonilla, who has made it clear he doesn't like being the designated hitter, stood up with a smile on his face, crossed both arms and looked at Johnson. The room broke up with laughter.

Johnson rebounded nicely. "Well, I wanted to play him in the outfield," Johnson said, "but Bobby wanted to be the DH so badly."

More laughs. In all seriousness, though, Bonilla wants to be a position player. He recently told his agent that on the bench, he "feels like an animal in a locked cage."

Johnson reiterated before yesterday's game that he wants to start the year with Bonilla as his DH. "I want to give [Jeffrey Hammonds and Tony Tarasco] every opportunity to get established in this league," Johnson said. "We know Bobby can play in the outfield, he can play first base and he can play third base. . . .

"But I feel I need to carry this out of spring training. He's my cleanup hitter. . . . It's not like I'm trying to penalize him. He's just got to learn how to house that energy he has in a productive way."

Being a DH hasn't hurt Bonilla. He hit the ball hard on Opening Day, and was 2-for-4 with two RBIs last night.

Slow, steady for Mills

Alan Mills, trying to bounce back from recurring shoulder problems, will throw off a mound tomorrow in Minnesota for the first time since he had a cortisone shot. Johnson has asked Mills not to fall in the same trap he did early in spring training, and try to come back too fast.

"I just want to feel it out and see what happens," said Mills, who hasn't even asked the team trainers about a timetable for his return.

"I don't want to get in a mode where I'm trying to keep up with that. Maybe what I need to do is not know, and let nature take its course."

Great expectations

Opening Day starter Mike Mussina noticed right away that Orioles fans are expecting a lot this season.

"I got three outs with five pitches in the first inning [Tuesday]," he said, "and then I go out there and walk one guy and there's somebody in the crowd yelling, 'Throw strikes!' I couldn't believe it."

Mussina went on to disappoint that fan by walking another batter and giving up five hits in the course of an otherwise impressive seven-inning performance.

Around the horn

Johnson was asked how he would react if Cal Ripken, who played in his 2,155th straight game last night, asked him for a day off. "I'd probably be like everybody else in the world -- I'd think the sky's falling," Johnson said. "I don't foresee that happening. . . . something would have to be terribly wrong for him to want to be out, or need to be out.". . . . The Orioles have executed 11 triple plays and hit into 16 in 42 seasons, including Bonilla's last night. . . . The Orioles weighed their options when Royals middle reliever Rusty Meacham and Toronto catcher Randy Knorr were placed on waivers this week. But they decided not to put a claim in on either player, assistant general manager Kevin Malone indicated yesterday. . . . Johnson says he likes scouting opposing clubs via television, something he did regularly while managing the New York Mets but not while with the Reds, the property of tight-fisted owner Marge Schott. Said Johnson, "We didn't have a TV, much less a satellite."

Pub Date: 4/04/96

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