Shepherd recalled Sackinsky sent to Rochester

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Alomar strains muscle

might sit out tonight

April 26, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Looking for more flexibility and experience in their bullpen, the Orioles purchased the contract of right-hander Keith Shepherd from Triple-A Rochester last night and sent down Brian Sackinsky.

To make room for Shepherd on their 40-man roster, the Orioles moved right-hander Billy Percibal, who is out for the year after reconstructive elbow surgery, to the 60-day disabled list.

Shepherd, 28, has 28 major-league appearances during his career, pitching twice last year for the Boston Red Sox. Injured last season, he came back to throw well in winter ball, and based on the recommendations of Roberto Alomar and Bobby Bonilla, the Orioles signed Shepherd to a minor-league contract and invited him to spring training.

Shepherd made eight exhibition appearances, compiling a 3.38 ERA, and started the year at Triple-A Rochester. In his first six games this year, Shepherd allowed three hits and no runs in seven innings, with three walks and eight strikeouts.

Sackinsky was promoted last Saturday, after Armando Benitez strained the flexor muscle in his pitching arm and went on the 15-day disabled list. Sackinsky pitched four solid innings against Texas that night, allowing just one run, a homer by Ivan Rodriguez.

But Wednesday night, Sackinsky relieved Kent Mercker to start the sixth inning, trying to protect a 10-6 lead. He faced five hitters, surrendering two hits and walking two.

Sackinsky has been a starter most of his career, and he's coming back from elbow surgery. Manager Davey Johnson said before last night's game that he's reluctant to use Sackinsky on consecutive days, which left him short-handed last night; Roger McDowell pitched 2 2/3 innings in relief Wednesday, and Johnson wants to use rookie Jimmy Haynes in only non-pressure situations.

Alomar strains muscle

In the ninth inning last night Manny Alexander replaced Orioles second baseman Roberto Alomar, who mildly strained his left hamstring running out a triple in the seventh inning.

Johnson said he might rest Alomar tonight.

Mercker meeting

Johnson met with Mercker, probably to talk about the left-hander's start against Kansas City, and to tell him the same thing he told reporters: Mercker needs to use his fastball more.

"He's got a good fastball," Johnson said. "That's the way he always was [in the NL], coming in at you with his fastball."

However, Mercker said he thought his fastball was so poor -- he thought he lacked his usual command and velocity -- that he thought he might be better off throwing all breaking pitches and changeups.

Mercker was credited with a victory, but he allowed six runs on six hits and three walks in five innings. Despite leads of 4-0 and 8-4, Mercker had thrown 97 pitches through five innings and Johnson had to go to his bullpen much earlier than he would've preferred.

"To me, he's not cutting loose the way he needs to cut loose," said Johnson. "Maybe he's a slow starter, I don't know."

Pitching coach Pat Dobson said: "The first inning he was throwing great. Then he stopped throwing the ball in the second inning. Once [the Royals] got the runs in the second, he started throwing good again."

Still hard loser

His long service as a major-league manager hasn't made losing any easier for Johnson. But, he said, managing during the recent losing streak "is a challenge. It's a challenge to make it right. If we had just gone along like that [and continued the great start], I would've gotten fired, because it would be too easy.

"I've been through worse -- 10 times tougher times, 10 times tougher situations -- and you'd think that after managing 10 years, it would be easier and you'd be able to sleep. You don't hit for them, you don't pitch for them. But you do [hurt]. You're so involved, and it takes its toll."

Appier available?

Kansas City right-hander Kevin Appier is a free agent after this season and, after losing earlier this week, he said angrily that he wanted to be around only if the organization tried to win.

Appier, who makes $5 million this year, could be among those pitchers dealt as the July 31 trade deadline approaches -- perhaps to the Orioles. A member of the Kansas City front office indicated two days ago that he hasn't been contacted by any team about Appier's availability.

Around the horn

Dana Hoiles, the expectant wife of catcher Chris Hoiles, had labor induced yesterday morning. But the procedure didn't work immediately. So Hoiles was back in the lineup. "I must've talked to her 20 times today," Hoiles said, "and each time it was like, this is going to be the time." . . . Former reliever Dick Tidrow bumped into Johnson on Wednesday, and the old acquaintances hugged. "I haven't seen you since you released me in '84," Tidrow said to Johnson. . . . The Orioles have homered in 16 of 21 games, with 31 on the year.

Pub Date: 4/26/96

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