Johnson thinks staff throwing too much heat Manager says pitchers relying on fastball whenever in trouble

Strategy burns Mussina

Advice: Be aggressive with curve, changeup

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 with the club in a six-game losing streak, 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.

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 in the fourth and seventh innings. 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. Don't be afraid to walk somebody, instead of giving up the big hits."

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."

Before Tuesday's game, Dobson said there were no plans for the coaching staff to call the pitches from the bench.

MA "No," he said, "you don't want it to ever get to that point."

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Kansas City Royals

Site: Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, Mo.

Time: 8: 05

TV/Radio: Ch. 13, 50/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Orioles' Arthur Rhodes (2-0, 0.90) vs. Mike Magnante (0-0, 3.38)

Pub Date: 4/25/96

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