Haynes steps up, but O's fall, 4-1 Rookie makes progress, loses second game to Twins

April 15, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

The Orioles lost for only the second time of the season yesterday, 4-1 to the Minnesota Twins, and there has been a common denominator in the defeats.

When rookie right-hander Jimmy Haynes hasn't started, the Orioles are 9-0. When he has started, they are 0-2. Their five-game winning streak and their perfect 7-0 record at home ended, before 42,660 at Camden Yards, and the O's shot at matching the best start in club history -- 12-1 in 1966 -- has passed. Cold, hard facts.

However, even in defeat, Orioles manager Davey Johnson felt encouraged, for Haynes -- pounded in his first start of the year -- made progress in his second start. Solid progress.

Haynes lasted 4 2/3 innings, allowed five hits, three walks and three runs, and if he were a middle-aged pitcher on a poor team, he might be a candidate for re-assignment. But Haynes is 23 and, as Johnson said, it takes time to develop young pitchers. Haynes took baby steps against the Twins yesterday, throwing more strikes and displaying his best curve of the year.

"I think he's getting closer to where he wants to be," Johnson said.

In his first start of the year, April 6 in Minnesota, Haynes threw harder than he had in spring training, but everything he threw was in the middle of the strike zone, and the Twins battered him. Nothing but live drives, ricocheting all over the Metrodome. Johnson said there were absolutely no plans to demote Haynes to the minors. But in the aftermath of Haynes' sub-par showing in spring training (12 runs in his last start), word filtered down through the organization that there was a chance Haynes would be sent down.

Haynes worked with pitching coach Pat Dobson in the seven days between starts, concentrating on re-vamping his delivery. Dobson watched tape of Haynes last September, when Haynes impressed the Orioles' coaching staff and effectively won a job in the O's rotation for this season.

The Jimmy Haynes of 1995 (2-1, 2.25 ERA) didn't have the dynamic leg swing in his delivery that Haynes had this year; Dobson and Haynes concentrated on eliminating that superfluous motion, get Haynes' body up and over the rubber as he began to drive toward the plate.

Haynes did so, and the results were noticeable immediately. Minnesota lead-off hitter Chuck Knoblauch saw them. "I thought he was throwing the ball at a better angle," said Knoblauch, retired by Haynes in his first two at-bats. "He was keeping the ball down in the [strike] zone. He was better here than in Minnesota."

Haynes threw first-pitch strikes to five of the first six hitters he faced, and his fastball had more life, more movement. Scouts clocked Haynes' fastball at about 86-87 mph on the stringent radar gun, which translates to about 89-90 mph on the more liberal JUGS gun. Far better than the 82-83 mph fastball Haynes threw in his last start of spring training.

In addition, Haynes had intermittent command of his sharp, overhand curveball. Twins right fielder Matt Lawton flailed at a curve and struck out in the first inning, swung and missed at a strike-three fastball in the third.

"I kept the ball down more," Haynes said. "I felt much more smooth in my delivery. I wasn't falling off toward first base that much . . . I've mainly worked on just slowing down my delivery."

That was a strength for Haynes last September, when he threw 90 mph fastballs. "That's what I'm trying to get back to," Haynes said.

That may take awhile longer. In between the handful of highlight pitches, Haynes was inconsistent. He needed 19 pitches in the first inning and 29 pitches to get through the second, going to a three-ball count on three of the five hitters he faced in the second.

Still, Haynes held the Twins scoreless through four innings. In the second, Minnesota had runners at first and second when Haynes whiffed Scott Stahoviak, retired shortstop Pat Meares on a fly to right and Rich Becker on a fly to left. Twins starter Frankie Rodriguez was shutting down the Orioles, as well.

Finally, in the fifth, his pitch count climbing near 100, Haynes' occasional lack of control cost him the game. He walked Becker -- who would finish the game batting .097 -- with one out in the fifth inning. Then Haynes threw the kind of pitch to Knoblauch that he threw April 6: Belt-high, not a lot of velocity to it. A gimme.

Knoblauch ripped it between center fielder Brady Anderson and right fielder Tony Tarasco for a triple that scored the first run of the game. Lawton singled home Knoblauch, stole second, and scored on an RBI single by Twins third baseman Dave Hollins.

Haynes walked off to polite applause, feeling better about himself and his standing with the Orioles. Johnson told reporters flatly that this is the best place for Haynes to be, but Haynes had been wondering; when you're pitching poorly, he said after yesterday's game, the possibility of being sent down "crosses your mind . . . But if I keep working and keep working, everything will take care of itself."

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