Myers doesn't like 'co-closer' scenario He says payroll cuts, shared 9th-inning role would be setup for trade

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

September 18, 1996|By Buster Olney and Jason LaCanfora | Buster Olney and Jason LaCanfora,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK -- Orioles closer Randy Myers hears that manager Davey Johnson would like to develop another pitcher or two comfortable enough to pitch in the ninth inning, and it sounds very familiar to him.

"If you're talking to me about a co-closer thing," said Myers, "it's like setting up to trade me, knowing I'm not going to be happy with it.

"The last two times in my career that they started using other guys [in the ninth] with two-run or three-run leads, I wasn't with them the next year. And [the Orioles] are looking to cut salaries."

Myers was referring to Johnson's statement that he hopes to slash the payroll from $50 million to $40 million, which Myers is taking as a precursor to cutting high-priced players.

Myers was asked if he would be unhappy sharing his duties as closer. "I've proven that I can pitch in the ninth inning in my career and be very successful," he said, "and I've proven it this year. It's not like I lost my fastball, lost my slider or my changeup. It's all there.

"I think they're looking at [Alan] Mills. They're looking to see if he can handle two- and three-run leads. I think I'm at the point in my career when I don't need to be labeled as a guy who can't close games and can't get out right-handed hitters. Once you get that label, it sticks with you. I've had lefties hit homers against me this year and right-handers hit homers against me this year."

Mills and Armando Benitez have been used to close several games in the past month. Myers said: "If you make a move knowing the player isn't going to like it, than you're trying to justify a trade."

Orioles assistant general manager Kevin Malone said flatly the team has no plans to deal Myers in the off-season. "He is our closer," said Malone, "but now Davey has the luxury of having other guys if he feels more comfortable with a particular matchup. Randy is absolutely our closer."

Coppinger proceeds slowly

Rocky Coppinger did not throw as hard yesterday as he usually would two days after a start, instead tossing lightly by playing catch.

Coppinger saw a doctor Sunday, and the Orioles want to take it easy with him leading to his scheduled start Friday. Coppinger's forearm has been bothering him, but magnetic resonance imaging tests were negative.

"He feels like he wants to go Friday," Johnson said.

Coppinger will throw lightly again today and move to long toss tomorrow. Johnson said he and pitching coach Pat Dobson will keep Coppinger off a mound until he starts Friday.

Malone says he'll return

Malone confirmed yesterday he'll be back with the Orioles next year. "Pat [Gillick] and I have talked about it, and we agreed I'll be coming back as his assistant in '97," he said.

"It's working out well. I'm very happy working as his assistant. I'm involved in all decisions. Pat has the ability to make everyone feel they're an integral part of the organization. Coming off a year when I was general manager of the Montreal Expos I think I would have felt differently if I had gone anywhere else."

O's want intense fans

The electricity and wildness at Yankee Stadium is a factor that several Orioles say helps raise the intensity of a Yankees-Orioles series. And they're hoping the Camden Yards crowds become just as intense.

"[Yankee Stadium] is a good place to play," first baseman Rafael Palmeiro said. "Why not in New York, the most hostile atmosphere there is? We're trying to tell our fans to make it more uncomfortable for the other team.

"Our fans cheer for the opposite team, which is nice. But when we go up to New York, we get bottles thrown at us, golf balls. They cuss at us. They make it uncomfortable for us."

Outfielder Mike Devereaux said the Orioles have done a good job of incorporating some Yankee Stadium antics, such as louder music and more scoreboard graphics urging fans to cheer, and he hopes it continues.

"There's no doubt the crowd [at Yankee Stadium] pumps us up," Devereaux said. "Ever since they started pumping the crowds [in Baltimore], the team has turned around. I'm glad they finally understood that they can help us."

Johnson vs. Yankees

Johnson said he gets more excited when the Yankees are sitting in the opposing dugout and takes special pride that his 1966 Orioles club was one of the first teams to topple the Yankees from their perch atop the American League.

"I love baseball," Johnson said, "and the Yankees-Orioles confrontations and conflicts. When I was with the Orioles we were the first team to really unseat the Yankees. Then they died the next two years and came up again.

"But '66 was the first year the Yankees weren't the perennial dynasty. It was always a thrill to beat them because they're so rich in tradition. The clubs in New York, you either love them or hate them."

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