Fearful of mop-up duty, Rhodes gets broom for sweep He holds Royals in check to set up winning rally

Orioles Notebook

April 05, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

The five-run rally in the eighth inning won yesterday's game for the Orioles. Arthur Rhodes gave them a chance to win.

Rhodes, who has rebounded strongly from shoulder surgery, pitched two scoreless innings in relief, pinching off a Kansas City rally in the seventh. In doing so, he picked up his first major-league victory since last June 25.

"Arthur was the key to the whole ballgame," said pitching coach Pat Dobson.

Orioles starter Scott Erickson dominated the Royals for four innings, allowing two hits and no runs. But in the fifth inning, the Royals put together four singles and a two-run double by Bip Roberts and took a 3-0 lead.

Rhodes relieved Erickson for the top of the seventh, and walked the first hitter he faced, Royals shortstop David Howard.

This was the situation that has historically given Rhodes the most trouble: A runner on base, forcing him to pitch from the stretch. During the previous five years, opponents have batted .244 with nobody on, .287 with runners on.

Sure enough, Roberts singled Howard to second, and Tom Goodwin advanced both runners with a sacrifice bunt, bringing Johnny Damon to the plate. Any kind of hit or fly ball or run-scoring grounder might've finished off the Orioles, as several players later acknowledged.

But Rhodes pumped a two-strike fastball over the inside corner, striking out Damon, and got out of the inning when Michael Tucker lined to first baseman Rafael Palmeiro. Rhodes retired three straight in the eighth inning, keeping the Orioles close for the comeback that came in the bottom half of the inning.

"He kept getting stronger and stronger," said manager Davey Johnson. "This was an important outing for him."

Dobson had the sense that Rhodes was concerned he would be used only as a mop-up man, in one-sided games. Rhodes' stature in the organization has steadily eroded over the past few years, and, with him eligible for arbitration after the season, this will be the year when the left-hander will either establish himself with the Orioles or move on.

Said Dobson, "From a standpoint of confidence, for a feeling of belonging, this did a lot for him today. He's throwing the ball well. I think . . . he'll be a very integral part of the bullpen."

Rhodes said: "They told me in spring training they didn't know how they would use me, I might be used as a long man or as a short reliever. It meant something, coming in down 3-0, when I have to shut them down the rest of the game."

Overtaking 'Horse,' again

Cal Ripken broke another of Lou Gehrig's consecutive-games records yesterday: Including the many postseason games he played for the New York Yankees, Gehrig appeared in 2,164 straight games. Ripken, who played in the 1983 playoffs and World Series, has now played in 2,165 straight games, 2,156 during the regular season.

Frederick for Shepherd

Alvie Shepherd, the Orioles' No. 1 pick, will begin the year at Single-A Frederick, probably as a starter but possibly as a long reliever. "The biggest thing with him is we want to get him some innings," said farm director Syd Thrift.

Shepherd is a power pitcher, and Thrift says he's added a slider and a split-fingered fastball this spring. "When he walks around the mound, his presence is obvious," Thrift said. "He has a 90-plus-mph fastball, and he's a good athlete."

Shepherd was a good hitter as an amateur, and Thrift intends to have him take batting practice before home games -- just in case something goes awry with his career as a pitcher, or as preparation for interleague play.

Thrift said smiling: "I would be ashamed of myself if I got in the way of the next Babe Ruth."

Pain of puppy love

Johnson limped around the clubhouse yesterday, after an accident on his front lawn after Wednesday night's game. As Johnson explained it, he was trying to race his 10-week-old puppy, Alfie. He lost, and he wiped out, slipping on grass, falling face-first, ruining a pair of pants and bruising the top of his foot. Alfie came back and began licking his face. "It was embarrassing," Johnson said. "He's not even breathing hard, and I'm sitting there on the ground."

If there had been need to argue with an umpire yesterday, Johnson said, "I would have gone out there very slowly."

Bonilla streak ends

Bobby Bonilla's 22-game hitting streak, which carried over from last season, ended yesterday when he finished 0-for-3. Bonilla's streak is tied for the second-longest in club history (with Eddie Murray and Doug DeCinces), two games behind Palmeiro's 24-game streak in 1994.

Pub Date: 4/05/96

Clutch hitters

The Orioles are off to a strong start hitting with runners in scoring position:

Player .. .. .. .. .. AB .. H .. Avg.

Cal Ripken . .. .. ... 4 .. 4 .. 1.000

Jeff Hammonds . .. ... 1 .. 1 .. 1.000

Bobby Bonilla . .. ... 4 .. 2 ... .500

B. J. Surhoff . .. ... 2 .. 1 ... .500

Roberto Alomar ... ... 3 .. 1 ... .333

Chris Hoiles .. .. ... 3 .. 1 ... .333

Tony Tarasco .. .. ... 2 .. 0 ... .000

Mike Devereaux ... ... 2 .. 0 ... .000

Rafael Palmeiro .. ... 3 .. 0 ... .000

Brady Anderson ... ... 5 .. 0 ... .000

Totals .. .. .. .. .. 29 . 10 ... .345

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