Orosco bails out boss in new way Reliever saves Johnson from hearing more boos

September 23, 1996|By Jason LaCanfora | Jason LaCanfora,SUN STAFF

Jesse Orosco has been bailing out his manager all year.

Most of the time it's what the 39-year-old reliever does with the ball that makes Davey Johnson breathe easier. Yesterday, it was even simpler than that.

Johnson was booed intensely when he walked to the mound to take Orosco out of the game with one out in the ninth inning of yesterday's 5-4 Orioles victory. The reliever had struck out all four batters he faced, and had the crowd in his corner. So Johnson decided to walk back to the dugout alongside his reliever, piggy-backing off the standing ovation Orosco received and avoiding any more boo-birds.

"That was choreographed," Johnson said. "I said, 'I don't know, Jess, I know they're gonna love you, so you gotta come in with me.' "

Johnson went nearly the entire season before hearing it from the crowd for pulling a pitcher. But yesterday was the second straight day Johnson's trip to the mound was accompanied by boos. Saturday he heard them for replacing Alan Mills with Randy Myers for the last out.

Orosco knew what was coming.

"He goes, 'Do me a favor,' " Orosco said between chuckles. "I already knew what he was going to say. He goes, 'I know I'm gonna kinda get burned for taking you out. Why don't you walk back with me?' "

Orosco couldn't resist the opportunity to chide his old Mets manager a bit.

"And I'm going, 'No. Why? You're taking me out and now you want me to be your friend and walk back with you?'

"Then we both started laughing. We were just playing around. I have no problem with his decision to take me out. My job is to stabilize the late part of the game and give it to Randy Myers and Alan Mills."

Other relievers have questioned their roles lately, but not Orosco. He is a positive force in a bullpen somewhat prone to disruptions. Myers criticized Johnson in New York last week for using multiple closers.

The closer controversy began when Johnson pulled Myers in favor of Mills on Wednesday in New York, after Myers walked two batters before getting the first out in the ninth inning with the Orioles nursing a 2-1 lead. The Yankees tied the game in the ninth and won it in the 10th.

"I didn't figure Randy was going to pitch around the first two guys," Johnson said. "I never second-guess myself. Nobody's perfect. But I didn't walk the first two either."

Orosco has presented no such problems for Johnson -- just relief.

In 34 games since the All-Star break, Orosco has allowed just four earned runs in 27 innings (1.33 ERA). He has allowed earned runs in just six of 53 appearances dating to April 22.

Twelve of the 21 earned runs Orosco has yielded this season came in back-to-back games in April. Otherwise, Orosco has a 1.58 ERA in 51 1/3 innings pitched. Johnson said he regrets not replacing Orosco those two nights, but he didn't have anyone FTC else available, eventually lifting Orosco for infielder Manny Alexander.

"Except for those two outings, I don't think you can pitch any better than Jesse's pitched," Johnson said. "Keeping a guy out there like that can ruin his year."

Orosco started fearing for his job safety after the consecutive long nights in Texas, but, as was the case yesterday, he didn't hold a grudge with his manager.

"I got a little worried when the season started and that happened," Orosco said. "It wasn't to where retirement was looking at me. I was looking more at, 'I'm in a rut right now and what do I need to do to get out of it?'

"I just felt like I wasn't finished. I felt like I still had a lot more to offer. I'm pretty darn happy with what I've done to turn it around the last four or five months."

Pub Date: 9/23/96

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