Johnson declares Mercker off the mark Manager says generosity to starters has its limits

Orioles Notebook

June 15, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Orioles manager Davey Johnson asked reporters yesterday to repeat the comments that Kent Mercker made after being pulled in the third inning of the 10-2 loss to the Kansas City Royals on Thursday night.

Then he responded to Mercker's complaint that he was pulled too soon, after allowing eight hits, three walks and five runs in 2 2/3 innings.

Without singling out Mercker, Johnson said: "Most guys, if they have trouble, should worry less about when they're coming out. They should worry about what they're doing."

Johnson believes he has been more than fair with his starters, all of whom have struggled. "I feel like I've gone overboard in giving everybody a chance to work out their kinks," he said. "I'm going to be tightening down on everybody. It's not spring training.

"Now that I have a balance in the bullpen, I'm not going to let guys give up [runs] and stay in there. I think I've given them plenty of opportunity to work through trouble.

"If anything, I'd say I've left them [pitch in trouble] too long, Mercker included."

Mercker gave up four runs in the first inning, including a three-run homer by Craig Paquette, and when the Royals rallied in the second inning for a fifth run, Johnson went to the mound and challenged Mercker. The left-hander retired the next hitter, but the Royals had two on with two outs.

That's when Johnson went out to relieve Mercker. According to one member of the team, Mercker said aloud in the dugout something similar to what he told reporters later -- that he thought he was being singled out for an early hook.

"In reality, I should've hooked him in the second inning," Johnson said. "I mean, if that's a quick hook, that's the farthest thing from my mind. That's 11 people on base in three innings.

"I know people out there [in the clubhouse] who are upset they're not pitching well. It's making it tough on the offense, and it puts pressure on the defense. What measures I take from this point on, I'm not going to sit here and get hammered on it."

Johnson said he intends to talk to Mercker privately.

"When I have a conversation in private, I won't betray that trust. I'm not going to make an issue out of it, but in the past [others] have betrayed that trust and talked about it [with the media] after being agreeable with me in private.

"My conversations after this are direct and to the point. I'm not against using the media to get my message across."

Johnson was asked if he thought players also use the media at times to get their message across. "If a player thinks using the media is going to help, they've got another thing coming," he said. "I don't make a decision based on public opinion polls."

Often, Johnson said, Mercker has had reason to be frustrated, because he has been hit hard, and the manager thinks Mercker was frustrated Thursday night.

"It's not like we're talking about a team that's leading the league in hitting," Johnson said, referring to the Royals, "so the frustration is going to boil over."

Numbers game

Some ugly numbers:

Over the last 103 1/3 innings going into last night's game, Orioles starters had allowed 104 earned runs.

Since May 18, the Orioles have had only four quality starts (at least six innings, three runs or less).

In the five games before last night, no starter had pitched into the seventh inning, and the starters in those games had accumulated an ERA of 13.09.

Some good numbers:

Since May 18, the Orioles' bullpen has an ERA of 2.76.

The team has clubbed 100 homers in 63 games. The fastest the Orioles had reached 100 homers came in 1987, when they hit their 100th homer on June 18, in the 67th game.

Around the horn

Back when the team was deciding whether to move Cal Ripken to third and Manny Alexander to short, the Detroit Tigers offered shortstop Chris Gomez, a more experienced option at that position. However, the Orioles told Tigers officials they weren't interested. . . . Catcher Mark Parent has been placed on waivers by Detroit. The Orioles have been looking for a catcher, but club officials have indicated they are not interested in the former Oriole.

Pub Date: 6/15/96

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