Benitez looks great, says he feels fine Tender elbow no problem in 1 1/3 hitless innings

Orioles Notebook

April 14, 1996|By Peter Schmuck and Buster Olney | Peter Schmuck and Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

Orioles right-hander Armando Benitez made his first relief appearance in a week yesterday and looked great. The question, of course, was how he felt.

Benitez has been hampered since late in spring training by a sore flexor muscle near his right elbow, but he struck out the first two batters he faced and went on to pitch 1 1/3 hitless innings to get the decision in yesterday's 7-6 victory over the Minnesota Twins.

"I felt fine," he said. "They told me that if it felt OK warming up that I could go in the game."

It certainly wasn't apparent by his performance that manager Davey Johnson was leaning toward placing him on the disabled list just five days before, but Johnson got by on five relievers until the inflammation subsided.

Benitez entered the game with two outs in the eighth and struck out Chuck Knoblauch to end the inning. He opened the ninth by striking out Jeff Reboulet, giving him five straight strikeouts to start the season. He had struck out the side in his only other appearance this year.

Benitez then retired Paul Molitor and Dave Hollins and was the pitcher of record when Brady Anderson's tie-breaking home run cleared the right-field scoreboard in the bottom of the ninth.

Haynes in focus

Rookie Jimmy Haynes is scheduled to make his second start of the season today, facing the Twins again in a game that could determine whether he remains the team's spot starter.

Despite the pressure, Orioles pitching coach Pat Dobson said Haynes will do fine if he concentrates on carrying through with the mechanical corrections he has made in his delivery since he lost to the Twins, 8-3, last Saturday.

"What you try to do is get him focused in some other place," Dobson said. "Tomorrow, I'd like to see him maintain his delivery. If he does that he'll make good pitches and he'll pitch better."

Hoiles' mitt is fine

Chris Hoiles is usually a slow starter, and hitting .111, it may take him awhile to return to respectability at the plate. But he has been very respectable behind it.

In his first eight starts, Hoiles didn't allow a passed ball, and the Orioles have a 1.82 ERA with him behind the plate.

Said Dobson: "He's really done a good job calling pitches."

Hoiles has thrown out one of eight runners trying to steal (on three occasions, they got such good jumps he didn't bother to throw). But he believes he's throwing accurately and with as much velocity as he has had in recent years, and is working well with a pitching staff mostly new to him.

"That's something I take pride in," Hoiles said, "especially right now, when I'm having my typical April month in hitting. I'm not carrying that onto the field when I go and catch. I think I've done a great job of separating the two."

Support from a friend

Orioles bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks has two numbers written on the front of his cap. No. 34 for Kirby Puckett, the Twins outfielder who is suffering from vision trouble, and No. 29 for Rod Carew, the former All-Star whose daughter has leukemia.

Hendricks said he wrote Carew's number on his cap during spring training, and added Puckett's number "when I realized he was going to have the [eye] examination, and when I heard the report was not too good. . . . The game needs more Kirby Pucketts."

Around the horn

Kent Mercker, the Orioles starter yesterday, pitched like someone who hadn't worked in eight days. The first five Twins he faced reached base -- three singles, a double and a walk, and the last four batters he faced reached. Mercker threw 101 pitches, only 55 for strikes, in 4 2/3 innings. When Mercker saw Johnson walk out of the dugout to call for reliever Roger McDowell, he rolled his head in frustration. . . . The Orioles have homered in their past seven games and have 15 overall, a pace that would give them a major-league record 243 for the season. The club record is 214 in 1985.

Pub Date: 4/14/96

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