F. Robinson still hopes to return to game But says he realizes 'it may be the end of it'

Orioles Notebook

April 18, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

Frank Robinson, fired as the Orioles' assistant general manager last December, continues to wait for an opportunity to get back into baseball, and he said yesterday he is prepared for the possibility that he'll never return to the game.

Robinson said the situation depressed him for "the first couple of months" after he left the Orioles. "Beyond that, I'm getting on," he said, "and understanding life may go on beyond baseball.

"I'm not comfortable [with that], but I'm pretty settled and satisfied."

Robinson, 60, isn't counting on getting back into the game. "It's like the old saying -- the longer you're out, the tougher it is to get back in," he said. "The other thing that I think works against me -- and I understand it -- is my age. You look up, [you're] 61, 62, 63, it's not easy to get back in. Baseball right now is thinking young. Who knows, it may be the end of it.

"I haven't written it off, but that may be the way it has to be. If that's what it is, then it will have to be. I've always [said] that when you're through playing, baseball owes you nothing. I was very fortunate to stay in 42 years. I always told players, if you're fortunate to stay in it, that's great. But if you don't, you can't be bitter.

"That's what I tell myself. I'm hoping the phone rings, and someone calls."

Throwing strikes

Never did it cross Pat Gillick's mind during the off-season that he was putting together a pitching staff with a penchant for throwing strikes. "I wish I could tell you differently," Gillick said, with a slight smile.

But based on early results, that is what has happened. Going into last night's six-walk struggle, the Orioles had allowed only 29 walks in 12 games, a major-league low, another example of how the team probably isn't going to beat itself often. The Orioles hadn't allowed more than four walks in any single game; 13 teams are averaging more than four walks per game.

"The credit has got to go first to the pitchers, and then to [pitching coach] Pat [Dobson], for getting that through to them, the importance of throwing strikes," Gillick said.

Dobson did harp on this theme early, telling pitchers that they'd be crazy not to throw strikes with an infield of Roberto Alomar, et al, playing behind them. "Even in spring training, when they weren't getting good results, they were throwing strikes," Dobson said. "We weren't walking people, and we were making [opponents] swing the bat.

"Walks have not contributed to us losing. We haven't had any seven-walk, eight-walk games when we've contributed to a lot of runs. The bullpen has what, five walks in 25 innings? [actually, 28 2/3 innings through Tuesday]. That's pretty good."

Mike Mussina, who has allowed four walks in 24 innings, says he has been more conscious of staying walk-free since seeing how strong the Orioles' defense is. "I think we have such a good defense that I might throw one down the middle, and all I have to do is hope their timing is off a little," Mussina said.

Most of the walks have come from three starters -- Scott Erickson (five in 12 innings before last night), Jimmy Haynes (five in 8 2/3 ), and Kent Merker (six in 10 2/3 ). The rest of the staff has allowed 13 walks in 76 2/3 innings.

Ejection baffles Johnson

Umpire Don Denkinger ejected manager Davey Johnson on Tuesday night, something Johnson said he still doesn't understand.

Bobby Bonilla was arguing with Denkinger over a called third strike on a checked swing, and he walked toward first to pursue his argument with Denkinger. Johnson popped out of the dugout, to try to prevent Bonilla from getting thrown out, he said. Denkinger motioned that Johnson was out of the game, for arguing a ball-strike call, but Johnson remained in the dugout for a couple of minutes, until Denkinger walked over to tell Johnson again he had been ejected.

"I said, 'I'm not arguing, I'm just trying to keep my player from getting thrown out,' " Johnson said. "I have to be out there. On a technicality, he threw me out."

Why didn't Johnson leave after the first time Denkinger booted him? "I thought he was basically kidding," Johnson said. "I wanted him to tell me [firsthand]. Then I wanted to get my money's worth."

Ejections carry an automatic fine.

Around the horn

Gillick said he might be close to picking up a part-time outfielder, who he would not identify. The Orioles are carrying three utility infielders -- Bill Ripken, Manny Alexander and Jeff Huson -- who have accumulated four at-bats this season. . . . Mussina has allowed three of the seven homers hit against the Orioles this season. "Look at me go," he said dryly. . . . Plate umpire Denkinger walked to the mound during the second inning last night and appeared as if he was suspiciously examining a ball with pitcher Scott Erickson. What Denkinger was actually doing was buying recovery time after a foul tip hit him in a painful part of his body. . . . , co-host of CBS' morning show, participated on a story on the Orioles' grounds crew yesterday.

Pub Date: 4/18/96

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