Johnson: O's pitchers need to slow down Manager says staff relying too much on fastballs

Sidelight

April 25, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- For almost a month, new manager Davey Johnson and his coaching staff sat back and analyzed how their pitchers liked to throw, what they liked to throw in certain situations, and what pitches the catchers wanted thrown.

They haven't liked all that they've seen, and after the club lost its sixth straight Tuesday, Johnson and his staff met with pitchers and catchers yesterday to talk about improving the pitch selection.

There is reason for concern. In the six losses, the Orioles' starters combined for a 10.97 ERA, with 53 hits and 39 runs in 32 innings. Orioles' starters allowed six homers in the first 14 games, and eight homers in the past five games.

And the pitching didn't get much better last night, even though the Orioles ended their skid with an 11-8 win over the Royals.

Former Orioles catcher Andy Etchebarren, Johnson's bench coach, met with catchers Chris Hoiles and Gregg Zaun, and pitching coach Pat Dobson gathered the pitchers together. Johnson chatted with Hoiles, Mike Mussina and others.

"Sometimes we do things correctly," Johnson said, "and when the same situation comes up, we do something differently.

"I'm not a second-guesser; the pitcher is basically going to call his own game. But I want to know what he was thinking when he threw a pitch -- if it was something he had success with in the past."

Johnson is concerned that the Orioles' pitchers have fallen into a pattern of relying on fastballs when they're in trouble. For example, Mussina mixed in his curveball effectively in the early innings against Cleveland on Tuesday, and then used his fastball more during the Indians' rallies later. Mussina allowed two three-run homers, to Manny Ramirez and Albert Belle, and both were hit off fastballs.

Zaun said, "Basically, they've made us aware of what's been happening in certain situations. [The message was] don't be afraid to walk somebody with something other than a fastball. Be aggressive with a breaking ball or a changeup."

Cleveland and Texas, two good hitting teams, took advantage of the fastballs.

"You always want to make them hit the ball," Zaun said, "but when you run into teams like Texas and Cleveland, they don't hit singles. They hit homers."

What Dobson said, according to lefty David Wells, "was stay aggressive. You've just got to utilize all your pitches. You can't get stuck in a rut, or pitch in a pattern. Stay aggressive."

Pub Date: 4/25/96

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