Rangers' Henneman closes out doubters Reliever quite relieved after picking up save


ARLINGTON, Texas -- The last time he was entrusted with a lead in the ninth inning, Mike Henneman walked off with his head down after giving up a game-losing, three-run home run to the Boston Red Sox's Reggie Jefferson.

On Tuesday night, he walked off to handshakes after preserving the Rangers' 5-2 victory against the Orioles at The Ballpark in Arlington.

"It felt good," Henneman said. "It felt good to help out the team."

It was good for the Rangers to welcome back, for one night at least, the pitcher who saved 10 games in May, a club record for a month, rather than the pitcher who had blown three of six save opportunities in June, including his previous two before Tuesday.

"He had good movement on his fastball," Rangers manager Johnny Oates said. "You can see that confidence in his eyes."

Henneman lacked an effective pitch, if not confidence, for most of this month after suffering a strained muscle in his right shoulder June 1. He tried to pitch through it, but with little success.

Finally, after giving up Jefferson's home run, he admitted that something was wrong. Henneman took the next six days off, and reported improvement.

"The shoulder feels great," he said. "No pain."

The short-term results appear to verify it. He pitched a perfect inning against the Red Sox on Sunday in a nonsave situation, then preserved the victory Tuesday night.

Starting pitcher Kevin Gross had held the Orioles to two runs on six hits through eight innings, so Oates allowed him to start the ninth with the Rangers holding the 5-2 lead. Gross got the first out, retiring Bobby Bonilla on a fly to left field, but Cal Ripken hit a double to right-center.

That's when Oates went to the mound and summoned Henneman.

It was not a popular move with the remnants of the crowd of 41,685, most of whom booed when Henneman was announced.

"You hear it," Henneman said. "How could I not?"

The boos didn't last long, though.

Opponents were hitting Henneman at a .545 clip with runners in scoring position, but he began to turn that number around. He got B. J. Surhoff on a routine grounder to second as Ripken went to third.

Mike Devereaux followed with a deep fly to left that at first looked like it could be headed for the seats, but Rusty Greer caught it in front of the wall for the final out.

Henneman secured his 19th save, and his first since June 1.

"It's good to get back out there," he said. "It's nice to be healthy."

Pub Date: 6/27/96

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