Keys' Rodriguez gets chance to meet the boss Johnson makes time for young right-hander


August 13, 1996|By Jason LaCanfora | Jason LaCanfora,SUN STAFF

Single-A pitcher Nerio Rodriguez got a small taste of the big leagues yesterday.

Rodriguez, one of several minor-league pitchers manager Davey Johnson said he may consider for a late-season promotion, stopped off in Baltimore on a return trip to Frederick from Triple-A Rochester. Rodriguez made an emergency start for the Red Wings on Sunday, going eight innings and yielding no runs, four hits and no walks and striking out three.

Johnson said he has always loved to get young pitchers innings in the big leagues and cited the quick rise of an 18-year-old Dwight Gooden with the New York Mets in 1984 as an example. When Johnson discovered Rodriguez was visiting the clubhouse yesterday, he called the young right-hander into his office and introduced himself.

"I didn't know him from Adam," Johnson said. "I wanted to see what he looks like. . . . Some of the depth becoming apparent at the minor-league level is our pitching. We've been looking at some kids pretty hard."

Rodriguez, 23, has been pitching for a little more than one year. He spent five years in the Orioles system as a catcher before being converted in midseason last year. This season, he's leading the Single-A Carolina League in earned run average (2.42) with the Keys.

"I never heard anything about a promotion, but I can handle it," Rodriguez said. "If they do it, that's good. It's the same thing no matter where you pitch. I do the same thing in Rochester I do in Frederick."

Another pitching prospect, Calvin Maduro, had his fifth start with Rochester rained out last night. Maduro dominated the Double-A Eastern League and is 2-2 with a 2.08 ERA in his first four Triple-A starts. He has 29 strikeouts and just five walks in his first 26 innings with the Red Wings.

Johnson also praised Frederick starters Chris Fussell and Sidney Ponson, but of the group Maduro is the furthest along.

"They all have major-league stuff, but whether they're major-league pitchers or not remains to be seen," pitching coach Pat Dobson said. "Maduro would probably come up first. He's a [40-man] roster guy, too. We have to discuss if he's ready for a call-up."

Anderson still day-to-day

Johnson said outfielder Brady Anderson, who was not in the lineup for the postponed game last night, is still day-to-day with a strained muscle in his lower calf.

Johnson said he regrets using Anderson as a pinch hitter on Sunday in a loss to Chicago because of the delicate nature of his injury. Johnson said he told Anderson he might use him as a pinch hitter and by the time the manager checked Anderson's availability with the trainers, the team leader in homers was already in the on-deck circle.

"I pinch hit him the other day against my better judgment," Johnson said. "I told him if you hit it, don't run too hard."

Anderson lined a solid single up the middle and reached first base easily Sunday before being taken out for a pinch runner. Recently recalled reliever Archie Corbin has adopted a new wrinkle in his delivery and a new warm-up strategy -- one for better control on the mound and one for less control.

Corbin worked with Rochester pitching coach Ross Grimsley on lowering his leg kick to improve his location and it has worked. Corbin walked eight batters in 7 2/3 innings in his first stint with the Orioles, but at Triple-A he walked just 25 batters in 43 2/3 innings.

But when it's time to throw warm-up pitches before entering a game, the hard-throwing Corbin has decided to get a little wild, evoking more fear in the minds of opposing batters.

"In warm-up, I've started letting a few balls go high and wide," Corbin said while displaying the flight of the ball with his hands. "I just want to get the hitter thinking. Just let one go."

Corbin used the tactic Sunday against White Sox slugger Frank Thomas and retired him.

"I knew he was checking me out," Corbin said. "Why not go with it? It's working."

Dobson was pleased to learn of Corbin's discovery.

"If he does that on purpose, that's great," Dobson said. "Sure it's effective because he throws hard. You don't get very comfortable at the plate with a guy like that. But certainly his control is a lot better now than before."

Around the horn

Outfielder Mark Smith, on the disabled list with a bruised leg, was in Frederick for preliminary rehabilitation yesterday and Johnson said he will rehab in Rochester later this week. . . . Recently demoted catcher Gregg Zaun is 7-for-21 (.333) with one RBI in his first five games with Rochester. . . . Recently demoted Jimmy Haynes is 0-1 after two starts with Rochester. He has a 6.17 ERA in 11 2/3 innings, allowing 12 hits, walking nine and striking out six. "He's still having mechanical problems at Triple-A," Johnson said. . . . The Orioles have signed 37th-round draft pick Craig Ratliffe, a high school pitcher from Kentucky, to a 1997 contract. Ratliffe, 6 feet 7, 215 pounds, passed on a basketball scholarship to North Carolina-Greensboro. They also signed free-agent pitcher Jamil Phillips from Johnson (Kan.) Community College.

Pub Date: 8/13/96

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