Team glad it didn't unload 'lethal weapon' Rhodes

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

April 19, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

Scouts from other clubs followed Arthur Rhodes' progress early in spring training, hearing that the Orioles planned on dealing the left-hander by April 1. But shortly thereafter manager Davey Johnson and pitching coach Pat Dobson began to like Rhodes, and he was pulled off the market.

This was a move the Orioles didn't make, and it has paid off so far. Rhodes has two wins and a save in four appearances, allowing just five hits and a run in 9 1/3 innings, with 10 strikeouts and a 0.96 ERA.

Rhodes was the winning pitcher in the Orioles' 6-5, 12-inning victory over the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday night, striking out three in three shutout innings.

Johnson said that when he first saw Rhodes this spring, "he looked like to me like he was a little messed up with his delivery, and he had some hesitation. Pat did a heck of a job smoothing that out, and that allowed him to start being Arthur."

That allowed him to start being the pitcher the Orioles long have thought they possessed, the hard-throwing left-hander who could buzz fastballs past hitters.

"We felt like if we used him properly -- rest him, use him in certain spots -- he could be one of the key guys for us," Johnson said. "I'd say to him, 'How could you have the kind of year you had [in '95] with your ability?'

"He's awful nice to have out of the bullpen. There are certain clubs [with a lot of left-handed hitters] he matches up well against. He's a lethal weapon."

Higher and higher

Several Orioles thought Jose Canseco's flyout in the seventh inning Wednesday night was the highest ball they'd ever seen. "They should get a tape of it and get the hang time," said Bill Ripken.

It was a monster fly, generated by Canseco's awesome bat speed and a fastball from Armando Benitez. Orioles left fielder Jeffrey Hammonds had the unfortunate responsibility of trying to catch the ball, and he drifted across left field and staggered and drifted some more before gloving it.

"I saw it go up, and it didn't want to come down," he said. "I was like, 'Stay with it, stay with it.' Then I was like, 'Stay with it, stay with it, stay with it, stay with it!

"You just can't practice catching that kind of ball. A major-league fly ball, from a major-league hitter. I'm glad he just missed hitting it square."

Alomar: He's the one

Shortly after Pat Gillick took over as Orioles general manager, he and Johnson decided to make a strong pitch for free-agent second baseman Roberto Alomar.

But they didn't want to drive up the price or show their intentions to other clubs. So, for several weeks, they talked publicly about going after Craig Biggio or with a platoon including Bill Ripken, all the while setting their sights on Alomar.

Strategic deception.

"It was really hard for me to keep from raising my hand and shouting, 'Alomar!" Johnson said yesterday. "Forget this smoke-screen stuff.

"The fit was here. A good ballpark, a good city that would really appreciate him. . . . Just thinking about the ground balls hit up the middle [to Alomar and Cal Ripken], I started salivating."

Now Johnson enjoys Alomar in person. Immensely. "How many five-star players are there?" Johnson asked, rhetorically.

Around the horn

Two former Orioles third base coaches, Bill Hunter and Cal Ripken Sr., were selected as 1996 inductees into the Orioles Hall of Fame, along with former owner Jerry Hoffberger. The trio will be honored at a luncheon before formal induction at Camden Yards the weekend of Aug. 23-25, when the Orioles play the California Angels. . . . Boston manager Kevin Kennedy met with his staff for nearly three hours after Wednesday night's loss, the powwow breaking up at about 3 a.m. "We had to make a lot of changes last year," Kennedy said yesterday. "It's looking like HTC we'll have to do it again. We have to have a better mix to compete. Our lineup is power-oriented, and we have to make adjustments." . . . The Red Sox demoted pitcher John Doherty. They'll make the other half of that move today. . . . Hammonds started at designated hitter yesterday, resting a slightly strained hamstring and allowing Bobby Bonilla to start in the outfield for the second straight day. . . . Kent Mercker was wearing a Greg Norman cap before yesterday's game. But he insisted it wasn't bad luck. "He's my idol," Mercker said. . . . Anderson, Johnson said, "plays more shallow than any center fielder I've ever seen." . . . Johnson laughed about Randy Myers' penchant for positioning his outfielders. "You'd think he'd watched [Jim] Palmer when he was growing up," Johnson said, recalling how Palmer used motions to move around his teammates. "We moved to humor Palmer."

Pub Date: 4/19/96

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