Pennington handles rough return to town Reliever settles down, in with Red Sox

Sidelight

April 18, 1996|By Brad Snyder | Brad Snyder,SUN STAFF

Brad Pennington's Boston Red Sox teammates were waiting for him yesterday afternoon, waiting to needle the former Oriole about his first outing against his old team.

"How come they booed you?" pitcher John Doherty asked Pennington as they stood by their lockers. "Did you demand a trade or something?"

That's basically what Pennington told Roland Hemond last June to get himself traded to the Cincinnati Reds. At the time, Pennington vowed to "stick it to the Orioles."

He didn't make good on his promise during Tuesday's 6-1 Orioles victory, walking the bases loaded and allowing a run.

"I'm not disappointed because I had a lot of nervous jitters out there coming back," Pennington said. "Fortunately, [Red Sox manager] Kevin [Kennedy] let me get that out of my system when you're down 5-0 instead of a 2-1 situation when it could have been disastrous."

Pennington came through in the clutch last night, even though the crowd booed him again and cheered as his first warump pitch hit the backstop. In the ninth inning, Pennington forced Rafael Palmeiro to fly to right with Roberto Alomar on first.

Pennington wasn't bothered by his bad initial outing against the Orioles, by his teammates' barbs, or by the boos of the fans as he entered Tuesday's game in the eighth inning.

"That's just part of the game," he said. "There were some cheers, too. At least it wasn't as bad as the boos when I gave up the home run to Ken Griffey."

It was a game-winning, three-run homer in late April 1994. The next day he was demoted to Rochester, and last June he was traded to the Reds for two prospects, pitcher Tony Nieto and outfielder Danny Clyburn. Before leaving Baltimore, Pennington got into a war of words with former manager Phil Regan.

Pennington said he has no hard feelings toward the Orioles, only toward Regan.

"I hated that man," Pennington said. "It's easier to say I'm going to stick it to the Orioles than I'm going to stick it to my former manager."

Pennington said he was angry that Regan didn't pitch him for 15 straight days. Regan, pointing to Pennington's 11 walks in 6 2/3 innings, had said he'd lost confidence in Pennington's ability to get people out.

These days, Pennington is with the Red Sox. He's still as wild as ever on the mound, walking 10 in seven innings. But he's getting a chance to pitch -- Pennington is 0-1 with a 1.29 ERA and is tied for the team lead with seven relief appearances.

He said he gets along much better with his current manager than with Regan.

Pennington, who was selected by the Orioles in the 12th round of the 1989 draft, was once one of the brightest prospects in the Baltimore farm system.

He had trouble throwing strikes and controlling his temper.

But Pennington has mellowed. He has a healthy sense of humor about his high number of walks -- he entered the season averaging almost a walk an inning.

And he has fond memories of his six plus seasons in the Orioles organization, his fondest being his first major-league appearance Camden Yards.

The fans gave Pennington a standing ovation.

"The whole place came up, it was unbelievable," Pennington said. "I still have that on tape."

Well-armed O's

The Orioles have played three of the better hitting clubs in the AL -- the Twins, Indians and Red Sox -- and yet they haven't allowed more than 11 hits or four walks in any game (13 other major-league teams went into yesterday's action averaging more than four walks per game). Some other impressive numbers:

Category ...... Stats ... ML rank

ERA ............ 2.67 ..... 2nd

Opp. Avg. ...... .228 ..... 2nd

HR allowed ........ 7 ..... 2nd

BB per game ..... 2.5 ..... 2nd

Hit batsmen ....... 0 ..... 1st

K-to-BB ratio .. 2.55 ..... 2nd

Pub Date: 4/18/96

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