Lack of innings hurts McDowell Early-season workhorse blames being used less for his recent struggles

Orioles Notebook

July 06, 1996|By Jason LaCanfora | Jason LaCanfora,SUN STAFF

Manager Davey Johnson and pitching coach Pat Dobson are scratching their heads about how to use reliever Roger McDowell.

McDowell, who said he is fine physically, was the workhorse of the bullpen for much of the year, but he experienced some minor shoulder problems about a month ago.

So, the Orioles decreased his workload. But McDowell hasn't been the same since.

"He says his ineffectiveness is from a lack of work," Dobson said. "There may be something to that. We're going to have to make a decision on how to use him. If he's well-rested and ineffective, it doesn't help the team. If he's tired and effective, that would help us. We have to find out how much work he can handle without hurting him."

Dobson said McDowell will pitch on consecutive nights on occasion to test the theory that rest equals runs against. McDowell threw just 12 pitches in his outing on Thursday, so Dobson said that if the situation was right they wouldn't hesitate to use him again last night.

McDowell was hit hard Thursday. He faced four batters, retired no one and gave up four runs. He has allowed runs in four of his past five appearances.

"I'll probably go to the whip more, but it'll be a lighter whip," Johnson said, meaning he'll use McDowell more frequently but for fewer innings in each outing.

Dobson said he's just glad McDowell is struggling now instead of a few months ago when he was the only right-hander Johnson felt comfortable going to out of the bullpen.

"It would have been doom if this happened earlier," Dobson said. "He's saved our butt quite a bit. Fortunately, we haven't had to use him too much lately."

Haynes could get a start

Johnson has hinted lately that he would not hesitate to start Jimmy Haynes, if necessary.

Haynes struggled badly early this year and was moved to the bullpen, where he has flourished of late. He has allowed just one run in his past 13 innings out of the bullpen, and that run came on a bases-empty homer by the Texas Rangers' Damon Buford, the first batter Haynes faced in that outing.

"I know I can pitch up here," Haynes said. "I'm out here to prove I belong. I still see myself as a starter. I'd love to be a starter again.

"But I'll pitch wherever they want me to pitch. I just want to stay in the big leagues."

As a starter Haynes was 1-5 with a 9.35 ERA, and he gave up 63 hits in 42 1/3 innings pitched. In relief, Haynes is 1-0 with a save and a 2.83 ERA in eight appearances. He has yielded 24 hits in 28 2/3 relief innings.

Haynes said he feels very comfortable in a relief role. He said he focuses on retiring the first batter he faces (he has retired the first batter in six of eight relief appearances), and then approaches the rest of the outing just as he did as a starter.

"You can learn a lot about your traits as a pitcher by doing what Jimmy is doing," Dobson said. "You get to learn hitters and learn how to pitch in different situations. We still think of Jimmy as a starter, but he's very valuable to us in the role he's in now."

Smith disappointed with self

Mark Smith is a bit unhappy with what he has accomplished since being recalled from Rochester three weeks ago.

Smith has not hit as well as he would like, as reflected by his .225 average (9-for-40) since his recall. He has had his moments at the plate, though.

He hit a game-winning homer to beat the Kansas City Royals in late June, and on Monday he hit the Orioles' first pinch-hit home run of the season.

"I'd like to play a little more, but I've had more playing time now than I have in the past," said Smith, who sat out last night.

"I'm just working to get locked in at the plate. I'm getting everything together with my swing. I feel it coming."

Smith has displayed attributes other than just his bat. His play in left field has been fabulous at times. He's made several diving catches since getting called up and has backtracked and closed in on balls nicely. Smith hopes he'll get more opportunities to display his glove work.

"I like to play defense," Smith said. "I enjoy it. I concentrate on defense. Right now it's just a situation where we have Bobby Bonilla, who needs to play the outfield to hit his best. And you've got to do anything you can to get Bobby swinging. He's so important to the team."

Around the horn

The Orioles yesterday signed Ryan Minor, their 33rd-round pick in the June draft. Minor will work out with the Orioles tomorrow and then report for the Philadelphia 76ers minicamp on Monday. Minor also was drafted in the second round of the NBA draft, but he had expected to go higher. He's expected to return to baseball and be playing for an Orioles farm team in July. . . . Johnson said he believed X-rays on Bonilla's left ankle were negative. Bonilla was the designated hitter last night. . . . Jeffrey Hammonds did not play with the Rochester Red Wings on Thursday after fouling a pitch off his foot in a game on Wednesday. Hammonds, who is listed as day-to-day, is hitting .167 (7-for-42) in his first 12 games with the Red Wings, with one homer, two doubles and five RBIs.

Pub Date: 7/06/96

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