MINNEAPOLIS -- Among his many veterans, Orioles manager Davey Johnson wants to develop a handful of youngsters, guys like Jeffrey Hammonds, Armando Benitez and Jimmy Haynes.
But Haynes may require a lot more patience than the others. Rather than rebound from his miserable outings at the end of spring training, Haynes, starting his first game of the season last night, confirmed his status as a floundering rookie. The Twins ripped him for seven runs in four-plus innings en route to an 8-3 victory, the Orioles' first loss of the season after a 4-0 start.
More bad news for the Orioles: Cal Ripken's streak of 74 consecutive errorless games, dating to last July 18, ended when he bobbled a grounder in the fifth inning.
Orioles third baseman B. J. Surhoff had two doubles and a homer and Benitez struck out the side in the eighth in his first appearance this season. But Minnesota ace Brad Radke shut out the Orioles for six innings, before allowing a couple of after-the-fact runs in the seventh inning.
By then, both clubs were swinging at first pitches, the issue having long been decided in the relatively short time Haynes was on the mound.
Minnesota, a team that feasts on mediocre pitching at the Metrodome, devoured the right-hander. There were no bloop singles or broken-bat hits over the infielders, just a whole lot of line drives. Six of Minnesota's 11 hits off Haynes went for extra bases -- four doubles, a triple, and a home run by third baseman Dave Hollins.
One hitter into the fifth inning, Haynes was gone. He probably wouldn't have lasted that long, if Johnson hadn't been trying to save his bullpen from some extra wear and tear.
"He got too many balls over the plate," Johnson said. "I thought he had some bad pitch selection at times. Early on, he basically didn't use his curveball, and he hung a changeup to the cleanup hitter in the first inning -- on the first pitch."
However, Johnson and pitching coach Pat Dobson both saw some progress in Haynes. Pitching in spring training games, Haynes' fastball was mediocre, around 82-83 mph, much slower than he would throw during workouts in the bullpen. The Orioles' staff thought Haynes might simply be tensing up once he got into a game, losing his velocity.
Last night, he threw hard. "I think there was some improvement," Dobson said. "His velocity stayed consistent, he got his breaking ball over better. From that standpoint, he was a little better.
"The whole time in spring training, we were looking for velocity and we didn't see it."
When he threw his good fastball against the Twins last night, he threw it over the heart of the plate, and the Twins hammered away.
"I was keeping the ball up in the zone," Haynes said, "and they were hitting it. . . . I knew what I was doing wrong [mechanically] by the second inning. But by then, it was too late."
He took a horrible beating, but apparently Johnson and Dobson saw enough improvement to keep him around. The Orioles won't need Haynes to start another game until April 20, and until then, Johnson indicated it's likely he'll be used out of the bullpen.
"I feel he'll be better the next time out," Johnson said. "It isn't like he walked the ballpark. . . . We could use him in the bullpen. We want to take it easy on Arthur [Rhodes, a reliever coming back from shoulder trouble].
"You have to be patient. Young pitchers take some time."
With the rest of the rotation solid, the bullpen performing well, the Orioles might have the luxury of getting Haynes to pitch the way he did last September.
After Haynes joined the Orioles last September, he threw free and easy, his delivery relaxed. He eased into his windup, and then a 90-mph fastball would explode out of his hand. He located the fastball with precision, on the edge of the plate, inside and outside. He occasionally had trouble controlling his curveball, but he would compensate for that with the command of his fastball.
So impressive was Haynes that even before Pat Gillick took over as general manager, three spots in the rotation were basically set: No. 1 Mike Mussina, No. 3 Scott Erickson and No. 5 Jimmy Haynes.
However, there was a notable dissenting voice among those who wanted Haynes to start 1996 in the major leagues. According to a club source who participated in the organizational talks last fall, Marv Foley, who managed Haynes in Rochester last season, didn't think Haynes had developed enough to face major-leaguers.
Haynes, as he acknowledges, has been rushing his delivery this spring, forfeiting command of his fastball and curveball (last night, he bounced a breaking ball 10 feet in front of home plate).
"We knew coming in that when he came up last year he had a whole year of pitching behind him, and he was in a groove," Johnson said. "We need to get him back to that point."
Hits and misses