Weekend sweeps O's into introspection Malone urges patience, but questions intensity

Sidelight

June 11, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

DETROIT -- Even if the Orioles win the rest of the games on the road trip they began last night and storm into first place, there still will be major questions about this team, created by its abysmal play against the Chicago White Sox over the weekend.

Swept in three games by Chicago, the Orioles pitched poorly and played subpar defense and made just enough mental mistakes to lose, traits they have displayed constantly against good teams. However, Orioles assistant general manager Kevin Malone said yesterday, it isn't time for radical changes. Not yet.

"That's more of a late-season solution," Malone said. "What we have to ask ourselves now is, how can we make them better with the guys we've got?

"We're only two games back. We've played well in spots, but we really haven't put it all together."

A team loaded with high-salaried players, the Orioles don't have that much room for maneuverability, even if they want to make big changes. But according to two club sources, Orioles owner Peter Angelos has made it clear to his front office officials that they can make moves in spite of salaries; in other words, if they feel a need to bench or trade a high-paid player, they can do so.

There are some areas that the Orioles may eventually address: They've talked to other clubs about acquiring a front-line catcher, including St. Louis (Tom Pagnozzi) and Seattle (Chris Widger).

Manager Davey Johnson said rookie Jimmy Haynes will stay in the bullpen, but the Orioles may be close to sending the right-hander to the minors. Haynes, terrible in his last two outings, will be a long reliever and won't be guaranteed of the regular work he needs. The Orioles could call up a journeyman pitcher, such as Jimmy Myers or Archie Corbin, to take Haynes' place.

Jeffrey Hammonds is hitting .240 and making little impact, with just 19 RBIs in 53 games. Johnson has attempted to shake Hammonds out of his slump, giving him days off and occasionally moving him closer to the top of the order. They always have the option of sending him to the minors if they don't see progress -- although Johnson prefers to keep one or two young players to develop.

Johnson and Malone talked yesterday, too, about trying to improve the Orioles' aggressiveness. "To me," Johnson said, "you've got to start going after guys. When the other people are hammering on you, that's all the more reason to make it happen. NTC You've got to keep pounding strikes [while pitching], and you've definitely got to change speeds.

"I haven't been too critical [of the pitchers] because this is a veteran staff. . . . They shouldn't need a whole lot of help from the pitching coach or me."

Malone said: "It's not so much the winning and losing. That's just part of it. There's a lack of intensity. I don't know how anybody else felt, but when somebody comes into our back yard and sweeps, that really ticks me off. You hope everybody feels that way. . . . When I was talking about intensity, that applies to everybody. You win as a team, you lose as a team.

"Talent-wise, I think we can compare and compete with anybody in the league. I think maybe this team is still trying to figure out its identity as a team."

Pub Date: 6/11/96

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