Team gets it together, in meetings at least Various groups gather, seeking slump solution

Sidelight

April 23, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

CLEVELAND -- A steady pre-game rain kept everybody indoors, but that fit in well with the Orioles' agenda for the day: lots of meetings, inevitable for a slumping team.

The coaching staff met with general manager Pat Gillick for more than three hours. Gillick met with unhappy infielder Manny Alexander. Manager Davey Johnson talked with rookie pitcher Jimmy Haynes and struggling slugger Bobby Bonilla.

Talk and talk and more talk:

The staff spoke about the makeup of the club, how improvements could be implemented. Johnson said they talked about how the bullpen is being used, whether they might consider carrying 12 pitchers (probably not, for now), and what to do about the No. 5 spot in the rotation.

Haynes has compiled a 12.08 ERA in his three starts, and pitching coach Pat Dobson acknowledged Sunday he is concerned that Haynes, one of the Orioles' top prospects, may be losing his confidence. Johnson and his staff mulled over the possibility of placing Arthur Rhodes or Brian Sackinsky in the rotation for Thursday's game in Kansas City, and sending Haynes back to Triple-A.

Johnson said after the meeting that a decision on Haynes had not been made.

Alexander was upset that on Sunday, when B. J. Surhoff was rested, Bill Ripken started at third and he didn't. While the rest of the Orioles stretched before Sunday's game, Alexander remained in the dugout, until Johnson talked to him and coaxed him onto the field.

Gillick met with Alexander in the manager's office yesterday for about 10 minutes. "He thought he should've played yesterday," Gillick said afterward.

Alexander was conciliatory, saying that Gillick and Johnson "are nice to talk to," but he said he still wants to play and sees no immediate opportunity to do so with the Orioles.

"B. J. has to play, and Junior [Cal Ripken] has to play," Alexander said, shrugging his shoulders. "[Gillick] told me I would get a chance to play, maybe a day game or something."

Alexander said he hasn't requested a trade, and doesn't see one forthcoming, not as long as the Orioles need a viable backup for Cal Ripken.

"I don't think they're trying to trade me. I know it's not going to happen now. Maybe in a couple of years they'll try. They don't have a shortstop in the minor leagues who's ready to play. They've got Juan Bautista and Eddy Martinez . . . but they're not ready."

Johnson chatted briefly with Bonilla, who is off to a poor start, going into last night with a .224 average, with one homer and 10 RBIs. Bonilla has drawn walks in only three of the Orioles' first 17 games, and Johnson said his cleanup hitter has been too eager, swinging at bad pitches.

"He's anxious and pressing, no question," Johnson said. "I [told] him that if there was anything I could do [to make him more comfortable], just let me know."

Johnson made a slight adjustment in his batting order that may help Bonilla, switching Surhoff to the No. 5 spot in the order and Ripken to No. 6.

Opponents may have been pitching around Bonilla, Johnson speculated, to get to Ripken, a slow right-handed hitter who has been struggling. "It may be a little more difficult for them to do that with a left-handed hitter [behind Bonilla]," Johnson said.

The staff talked about whether to continue carrying three utility infielders -- particularly now that veteran outfielder Luis Polonia is working out at Triple-A Rochester. "There are some options," Johnson said. "But you also don't want to overreact to a situation when you slump."

Five days ago, Johnson and his staff felt great about their club. "Exactly. . . . Things can turn around in a hurry," he said.

Pub Date: 4/23/96

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