Shepherd's arm and attitude win him O's promotion Reliever didn't complain when others got first shot

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

April 27, 1996|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

The phone finally rang for right-hander Keith Shepherd Thursday night. He had lost out to Jimmy Myers in spring training and stayed behind in Rochester when Brian Sackinsky was recalled earlier this month, but it was just a matter of time. He was throwing too well to be overlooked much longer.

"I was just out there to have a good year whether I stayed there until September or came down here," said Shepherd, who has impressed the club with both his arm and his attitude since signing a minor-league contract last winter.

"When they brought Brian up, I was happy for him. He's a great guy. The situation with me is, I try to be friends with everybody. I even try to help the guys who are in the same role as I am."

That's the attitude that Shepherd displayed when Myers got the last bullpen job out of spring training. He could have complained, considering the circumstances, but he joined the Red Wings and pitched very well through the first three weeks of the minor-league season.

In seven appearances as the Red Wings closer, he gave up just three hits and no runs in seven innings of work and recorded four saves. He isn't likely to work in late relief out of the Orioles' bullpen, but his experience in tight situations could make him a more valuable middleman.

That proved the case last night when he pitched a scoreless ninth against Texas to keep the Orioles within a run. After a walk and single put men on first and third with no outs, Shepherd struck out Will Clark and Juan Gonzalez with two men on before a great play by Roberto Alomar finished the inning.

"He's somebody who can work every day," manager Davey Johnson said. "He's replacing Sackinsky, who couldn't work every day. He gives me more flexibility."

Shepherd struggled with his control some in spring training, but he figured things out about the time he arrived in Rochester.

"Toward the end of spring training, I figured out that I was choking the slider," Shepherd said. "I was holding it too tight and too far back in my hand. I started putting it farther out on my fingertips and found I could throw it for a strike anywhere in the count."

Closer-in-waiting?

Left-hander Arthur Rhodes is happy to be back in the Orioles' starting rotation, but he would have been happy to go either way. He was beginning to enjoy the day-to-day activity in the bullpen, and wouldn't mind it if he eventually developed into a closer.

"I've thought about it, but we've already got a closer," Rhodes said. "I'll have to wait until Randy Myers finishes his career and then become one."

Rhodes saw what happened with old friend and teammate Jose Mesa, who struggled for years to establish himself as a starter before becoming a star closer in Cleveland.

"Mesa was a starter," Rhodes said. "I could do the same thing -- come in and get locked in for a couple of batters."

Of course, the club's closer-in-waiting is Armando Benitez, but Rhodes did not hurt his value to the organization by showing he could be a very effective reliever.

Groundbreaking event

Johnson has been invited to represent his late aunt, Ruth Ward Gurtler, at the June 6 ground-breaking for the new building she helped fund at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing.

The student lounge in the new structure will be named for Gurtler, who died a few days before the opening of spring training.

Alomar in, Surhoff out

Alomar, who left Thursday night's game with a sore left hamstring, was back in the lineup for last night's game.

Third baseman B. J. Surhoff did not start -- Johnson cited various bumps and bruises -- but pinch hit for starter Manny Alexander in the sixth inning and hit a two-run homer in the eighth.

Alexander, still seeking his first hit of the season (0-for-4), made several strong defensive plays.

More DH talk

Bobby Bonilla met briefly yesterday with general manager Pat Gillick and assistant GM Kevin Malone, again expressing his displeasure at being the everyday designated hitter.

"He doesn't want to be a DH," Gillick said, "but I think if you went out there on the field and asked all of our offensive players if they want to be a designated hitter, they'd all say the same thing. Everybody wants to play."

The collector

Starting pitcher David Wells received an interesting package before yesterday's game. It contained a baseball autographed by the 1930 New York Yankees, another autographed by former President Richard Nixon and one by Roger Maris. Wells, it turns out, is a collector of rare baseballs and apparently has a very impressive collection.

Around the horn

The Rangers set a team record with their ninth straight errorless game. . . . 's 12-game hitting streak came to an end. . . . David Hill, president of Fox Sports, attended the game along with several production people, apparently to scout the stadium for a June telecast. . . . Fans can buy upper reserved tickets to Tuesday's game vs. the New York Yankees, with proceeds benefiting the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. The price is $30 and includes a buffet. Call 771-9000.

Pub Date: 4/27/96

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