Options eyed for pounded rotation Rhodes may start

Sidelight

Haynes could go to Rochester

April 22, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Orioles pitching coach Pat Dobson stood in the corner of the clubhouse before yesterday's game, displaying his tight and rather homely throwback uniform.

"What, are you kidding? I can't go out there in this," Dobson said, in mock despair.

For the first two weeks of the season, Dobson could've worn camouflage and no one would've noticed. Dobson hardly ever went to the mound: The Orioles' pitching was terrific, and there was no need.

But during the last four days, Dobson has trudged out of the dugout with alarming frequency to counsel another of the Orioles' many struggling pitchers. He has seen the team ERA soar from 2.55 to 5.00, and there will be changes.

Some changes may be minor. Left-hander Kent Mercker, Dobson says, needs to improve his pitch selection. Jesse Orosco needs to get more work.

Other changes may be more substantive. Rookie Jimmy Haynes may lose his spot in the rotation and, although general manager Pat Gillick and manager Davey Johnson say they haven't discussed this possibility, Haynes obviously could be returned to Triple-A Rochester.

Johnson said after Saturday's 8-3 loss to the Texas Rangers that one option may be inserting left-hander Arthur Rhodes, who has an 0.96 ERA in four relief appearances, into the rotation. If so, Rhodes' next two starts would come against teams with lineups heavy in left-handed hitters, the Kansas City Royals and the New York Yankees.

Brian Sackinsky, the right-hander who threw four strong innings in his major-league debut Saturday in relief of Haynes, is another possibility. Or the Orioles could let Haynes try to pitch his way out of his slump, although that seems to be the most unlikely scenario.

Haynes' four-inning, seven-run performance Saturday contained almost no redeeming qualities -- he pitched tentatively, Johnson said, and the strikes he did throw often were hammered.

"He pitched behind all the time," Dobson said. "His delivery is still erratic. He maintains it for one inning, and the next inning he falls apart."

Dobson was asked if he was worried about Haynes' confidence.

"Certainly I am," Dobson said. "He hasn't really had a good outing since his first two innings of spring training. He hasn't had a good day in a long time.

"He just tries to be too fine with his pitches early in the count, then he's got to throw his fastball and they hit it."

With Haynes, Dobson said, "Sometimes you see it [his good stuff], and sometimes you don't. . . . He throws pretty good in the bullpen, and then he gets into the game and [his mechanics] fall apart. He's got to make adjustments himself during games. I can't go out there with him."

Mercker started the 26-7 loss Friday night, and allowed eight runs in 4 1/3 innings. However, Dobson saw some good in Mercker in that game.

"For the first time, he had all three of his pitches working," Dobson said. "He still needs to get his feet on the ground and work on his pitch selection a little."

For instance, Dobson said, Mercker threw a fastball to Juan Gonzalez, a good fastball hitter, in the first inning, and Gonzalez whacked it for a three-run homer.

"We'll get there," Dobson said.

Pub Date: 4/22/96

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