4-man rotation gets Johnson high-5 Manager happy as pitchers are 4-0 in first six starts

Orioles Notebook

August 12, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

CHICAGO -- Orioles manager Davey Johnson has counted the early returns on the four-man rotation, and, he says, "You'd have to give it an A."

Six times Orioles starters have pitched on three days' rest -- David Wells three times, Mike Mussina, Rocky Coppinger and Scott Erickson once each -- and they've compiled a 4-0 record with a 3.78 ERA, allowing 15 walks and 46 hits in 38 innings, with 21 strikeouts.

This week could provide a fairer test of how the Orioles rotation adjusts, as each starter will make the second turn on diminished rest. "It's been good so far," said pitching coach Pat Dobson. "They've been pretty pitch efficient, getting us deep into the game with 100 pitches."

Erickson said: "I think it's great. From day one, when they first mentioned it [as a possibility], I was hoping they'd do it. It gives you more chances to get out there."

Looking deep

The Orioles were down 2-0 in the fifth inning Saturday night, and they looked dead, on the verge of dropping a second straight game against the Chicago White Sox and falling to five out in the wild-card race. But with two runners on base and two out, Roberto Alomar got to three balls and two strikes against left-hander Wilson Alvarez, and then with a vicious swing, he drove a ball over the left-field wall to give the Orioles a lead; in a sense, it was one of the Orioles' bigger hits of the season.

Alomar acknowledged yesterday he wanted to drive the ball in that situation, rather than line it somewhere, which is what he usually tries to do.

"On three balls and two strikes, you can guess fastball," Alomar said, "and that's what I did, look for the fastball. [With the count] two and one, you cannot do that."

Frankly speaking

Frank Thomas' ability to hit Mussina -- five doubles and six homers and a .588 average in 34 at-bats -- is almost to the point of being absurd. Thomas had a single, homer and walk in three plate appearances against Mussina on Saturday, driving in three runs.

"I had my usual game against the White Sox," Mussina said. "I pitched OK against the rest of the White Sox, and Frank hurt me."

Dobson said he's never seen anything like it. "Lou Brock hit me pretty good, but he never hit homers. He hit singles."

Trade? Probably not

The Orioles still can augment their roster by trading for a player who passed through waivers. But Johnson downplayed that possibility.

"There would be interest in some of our young pitchers," he said, "but again, I don't believe in compromising our future. There might be some guys off Double-A and Triple-A we'd be willing to move, but I don't know about below that."

Likewise, Johnson said if the Orioles play the free-agent market this winter, he'd like to go for depth -- for instance, signing three or four medium-priced players instead of two high-priced ones.

And he knows what kind of players he wants. "I know what the team needs," Johnson said, "I know what I want. Last year, I could only surmise what I wanted. I could put names on it, but won't. I can only tell you the type of player."

So?

"Aggressive," Johnson said. "Speed."

Familiar Ripken plateau

With his 20th homer yesterday, Cal Ripken has hit 20 or more homers in 12 of his 15 seasons. He had missed the plateau the past two seasons, hitting 13 and 17.

Around the horn

Brady Anderson (strained muscle behind calf) might still be a day or two away from starting, Johnson said. "But that might be really being optimistic." Anderson pinch-hit for Cesar Devarez in the ninth inning yesterday and lined a single over second. . . . Chris Hoiles threw out one of two runners stealing Saturday, and again, Mussina's ability to hold runners helped. With Mussina on the mound and Hoiles catching, opposing runners have been thrown out on three of seven attempts (42.9 percent). With other pitchers on the mound, Hoiles has thrown out eight of 75 (10.7 percent). . . . B. J. Surhoff played yesterday's game with a left hamstring strain and a stiff lower back. Surhoff came out of Saturday's game in the eighth inning because of the soreness. . . . Surhoff started in the No. 2 spot in the order, behind Alomar, the second time this year Surhoff has batted second. "I just don't want them pitching around Robbie," said Johnson. "The on-base percentages of [Mike] Devereaux and [Jeffrey] Hammonds are not real good." . . . Hoiles has multi-hit games in four of his last five starts and pushed his average to .252, the highest it has been since Opening Day. Hoiles has as many multi-hit games in his last five starts as he did from June 18 to Aug. 4. . . . The Orioles have not won a series against a team over .500 since May 17-19, when they took two of three from Seattle. . . . Mark Smith, on the disabled list with a bruised leg, has been in Baltimore rehabilitating his leg during the past week. He could begin a rehab assignment at Single-A Frederick or Double-A Bowie later this week.

Smooth road

Some facts and figures from the Orioles' 9-4 road trip:

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