Dobson joins catchers in calling O's pitches Coach lends bench support

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Mercker's velocity is better

June 10, 1996|By Jason LaCanfora | Jason LaCanfora,SUN STAFF

Orioles pitching coach Pat Dobson has started calling pitches from the bench in some key situations.

Almost all of the time catchers Chris Hoiles and Gregg Zaun call pitches from behind home plate, but they've looked to the bench for help about a half-dozen times the last two weeks.

For example, Thursday night Jimmy Haynes was pitching with the bases loaded when Zaun looked to the dugout and Dobson called a pitch that resulted in a groundout. Other times, the catcher is signaled from the bench if he hasn't yet looked over.

"Ideally, it's not what you want to do," Dobson said. "But there are different times in the ballgame when we might have a different idea of what we want to do. There are certain [pitchers] we won't do it with, like [Mike] Mussina. He has a pretty good idea of what he wants to do. Some other pitchers, we think it'll help."

Mercker: Full speed ahead

Starter Kent Mercker's velocity continues to improve from start to start, thanks in large part to some exercises he learned a month ago from TV broadcaster and former Orioles pitching coach Mike Flanagan.

Mercker's velocity dropped significantly in each of the last four years and even when he was throwing hard he had difficulty sustaining the velocity through the course of a game.

On Saturday, Mercker's fastball was clocked around 86 mph, up from 80-81 mph earlier this year, and he kept it up through all six innings he pitched.

"Flanny hit it right on the head," Mercker said. "It's weird, my whole life I threw hard, then the next thing I knew, I lost it. I was going to war without any bullets in my gun. I couldn't even throw the ball hard enough to make the [catcher's] mitt pop. That's why I wasn't striking guys out. My fastball wasn't rising. Now I can start elevating my fastball again."

Coach Down to have surgery

Orioles hitting coach Rick Down has decided to have knee replacement surgery in the off-season.

"I want to get it fixed," said Down, who walks with a pronounced limp the surgery will correct. "I don't want to look like I'm deformed anymore. I'm looking forward to the operation. I'll get it done at the end of the season."

Huson eyes rehab stint

Utility man Jeff Huson hopes to begin a rehabilitation stint in the minors in about 10 days.

Huson was placed on the disabled list May 18 and underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee May 21. Huson has been throwing lightly the past few days and he plans to start hitting and sprinting Wednesday.

"The doctor said I would be cleared to hit, take ground balls, do whatever I want by next Monday," Huson said. "I want to do a rehab stint. It's been four weeks since I've played and I only had eight at-bats before I got hurt. I want to see how the knee is."

Krivda feeling better

Rick Krivda's health was much improved yesterday.

The pitcher was sent home on Saturday with a 100-degree temperature and bad aches and pains. Yesterday, Krivda warmed up in the eighth inning but did not enter the game.

"[Saturday] the body pain was killing me," Krivda said. "The doctor gave me some medicine and told me to go home so I wouldn't get anyone else sick. I just went home and slept. I got a lot of sleep. It's still in my nose and throat, but I feel a lot better."

More draftees sign

The Orioles have now signed six of their 46 picks from the June draft. Pitcher Gabe Molina, a 21st-round pick from Arizona State, 23rd-rounder Jesse James Perez, a shortstop from Puerto Rico, and 35th-round choice Jeremiah Johnson, a pitcher from Kellogg Community College in Missouri, are the latest three to sign.

The Orioles are scheduled to meet with Brian Falkenborg, their highest pick in the draft (51st overall) tomorrow or Wednesday in his Redmond, Wash., home. Falkenborg, a pitcher, is still in high school and his father, Tom, said negotiations won't really pick up until Brian finishes his final exams tomorrow.

"He has a lot more than just baseball on his mind," Tom Falkenborg said. "He'd like to get school out of the way first."

Falkenborg also is considering a scholarship offer from Oklahoma State.

Around the horn

Cal Ripken moved past Harold Baines and Steve Garvey for 65th place on the all-time RBI list with 1,309 with a two-run homer yesterday. Ripken is tied with Paul Waner. . . . His sore thigh muscle improved, Brady Anderson began attempting to steal bases again during the White Sox series. He last stole a base May 1. . . . Reliever Armando Benitez, placed on the 60-day disabled list in May, will begin throwing next week when the Orioles return home. . . . B. J. Surhoff scored his 500th career run yesterday. . . . The Orioles media guide cover, which features a drawing of the team by cartoonist Mike Ricigliano, was voted best in the American League by league officials. . . . P.A. announcer Rex Barney led fans in singing "Happy Birthday" to longtime Orioles broadcaster Chuck Thompson. Thompson turns 75 today.

Pub Date: 6/10/96

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