Sound of silence irritates Johnson Faulty dugout phone leads to failure to communicate

Orioles Notebook

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

KANSAS CITY, MO. — 1/8 TC KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Davey Johnson was among the first in baseball to embrace the new age of technology, using computer-generated statistics to help him determine lineups. But during Tuesday night's loss in Cleveland, Johnson's anger was generated by and focused on a piece of equipment in his dugout: the phone.

In most dugouts, the phone connected with the bullpen is on the wall nearest home plate, where the manager is usually bunkered. But in Cleveland, the phone to the bullpen is at the far end of the dugout, away from the manager.

The Indians rallied in the seventh with two outs, and with starting pitcher Mike Mussina having thrown about 100 pitches, Johnson told pitching coach Pat Dobson to call the bullpen and get Roger McDowell warming.

Dobson made the call, and waited for bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks to call him back and tell him McDowell was ready. Julio Franco singled, and then Carlos Baerga, and Johnson wondered, with Albert Belle coming up, if McDowell was warmed up. Johnson hadn't made up his mind to bring in McDowell, but he was going to go to the mound to check with Mussina and ask him how he felt. If Mussina said he was tired, Johnson was going to call for McDowell.

But they hadn't gotten the call from Hendricks with word that McDowell was ready. That's when Dobson discovered that the phone didn't ring loud enough for him to hear, anyway. From the opposite end of the dugout, he was supposed to see a small green light that would indicate the phone was ringing. Turns out McDowell was ready all along, but Dobson knew too late for the right-hander to face Belle, if that's what Johnson chose.

Belle hit a three-run homer, and Johnson blew up, on his way out to yank Mussina. "I'm going out there!" Johnson yelled at Dobson. "If McDowell is ready, then wave to me or something."

Johnson would like the Indians to move the phone to the other side of the dugout, to make it easier to see or hear. Dobson said, "You couldn't hear it. There were four guys sitting next to it and they couldn't hear it."

During losing streaks, Johnson said, "Every little bad break that could happen does. Just a lot of irritating little stuff."

Like a pesky silent phone.

Hoiles on baby alert

Dana Hoiles, Chris Hoiles' expectant wife, is going to the hospital today to have labor induced, and if the birth of their first child is imminent, Hoiles will fly back to Baltimore. "Last night, when we were flying in [from Cleveland]," Hoiles said, "I wrote down every 800 number for every airline and rental car place and limo service. I'll be there, one way or the other, especially for her sake."

Mills makes 1st rehab start

Reliever Alan Mills threw in his first minor-league rehabilitation start yesterday in Sarasota, Fla., and Johnson and Dobson were told by minor-league pitching coach John O'Donoghue that Mills was extremely impressive. Mills, pitching to Single-A hitters, allowed one hit and no walks in three innings, striking out four and requiring just 42 pitches. Mills' fastball was clocked about 86-89 mph on the conservative radar gun, Dobson said. He will begin throwing his slider in his next outing.

Armando Benitez, the other reliever on the Orioles' disabled list, will get treatment on his strained flexor muscle for about 10 more days before he'll resume throwing. Johnson called him two days ago to remind him that he needed to get treatment every day, rather than intermittently.

Mills and Benitez are on track to return to action at about the same time, but Johnson wants to be sure they're OK. He doesn't want to carry two or three relievers who require rest between appearances. "That ain't going to happen," said Johnson, who regrets not placing Benitez on the disabled list earlier this month, when his strained flexor first became a problem.

Bonilla still adjusting to DH

Bobby Bonilla hit his second homer of the year Tuesday night, and he feels he's gradually adjusting to the role of designated hitter. His biggest challenge has been learning to use his extra energy in a positive fashion, something he hasn't always done. Bonilla acknowledges that he's been extremely anxious at the plate, overly aggressive.

"I want to swing at everything up there," said Bonilla, who has drawn just five walks this season. "I'm just getting used to this. There's more to adjust to than people realize."

He's beginning to understand when he's overly aggressive at the plate, and reminds himself to be more selective. "Like [Tuesday night], against Jose Mesa," Bonilla said. "Ninety-nine percent of the time, with our team down one run, I'm going [to be patient]. I swung."

He grounded out, to second. "I know I'm going to get a better pitch than I swung at," Bonilla said. "I went back to the dugout saying, 'Why did I swing at that?' "

Around the horn

Arthur Rhodes' start tonight will be his first since July 5, 1995. . . . Cal Ripken met with the local media before last night's game and fielded questions. Somebody mentioned to Ripken that whenever the streak ends, it will be a "media circus." Ripken replied, "That's motivation enough to keep on playing.". . . . Earl Weaver would not approve: Before last night's game, the Kansas City Royals practiced bunting for about 15 minutes. . . . Triple-A Rochester swept a doubleheader from Syracuse yesterday, with new signee Luis Polonia going 0-for-7 with two strikeouts. Mark Smith went 6-for-7 with three doubles, a homer and five RBIs.

Pub Date: 4/25/96

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