For man facing loss of job, Krivda puts up stoic front

March 07, 1997|By JOHN EISENBERG

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- He pitched the Orioles to their biggest win of the season in 1996, and what did the Orioles give Rick Krivda in return?

They gave him Jimmy Key, Shawn Boskie and Scott Kamieniecki -- a new layer of free agent starters, guaranteed to make Krivda's chances of making the team slim at best this season.

Thank yewwwwww!

Krivda wasn't upset about it, though, or so he insisted after pitching a shaky inning in the Orioles' 9-7 win over the Expos yesterday at Municipal Stadium.

"I've never been the kind of player that they [teams] make room for, anyway," he said. "I face the same kind of challenge every year."

The Orioles are just trying to build the best possible team, of course, so you really can't blame them for not factoring in Krivda too prominently. At age 27, he has only five wins and a 4.76 ERA in 24 starts and 35 major-league appearances. Even he admits the Orioles owe him nothing.

"I obviously haven't lived up to expectations," he said.

But the last of his five wins was at Fenway Park four days before the end of last season, when the Orioles were struggling to maintain a small lead in the American League wild card race.

Forced to make an emergency start, Krivda out-pitched Tim Wakefield and the Orioles won. Manager Davey Johnson called it the biggest win of the season.

Of course, it was big largely because it was so unexpected; Krivda hadn't won since June, having spent as much time in Rochester as Baltimore in a season he said yesterday was "a step backward."

The huge win in Boston made everything look a lot better.

"I looked at that as a coming-out game for me," Krivda said. "I proved some things to myself as far as my ability to perform under pressure. It felt great to contribute like that."

Johnson said the next day that Krivda would have a strong shot at making the rotation in 1997, but the additions of Key, Boskie and Kamieniecki rendered that statement irrelevant. And general manager Pat Gillick said recently that he still wants to add another starter.

Krivda's response?

"I'm not surprised," he said. "That's the way this franchise has operated over the past few years. They tend to bring in a lot of players."

They have brought in so many this time that Krivda would appear to be out of a job, unless he hangs on as the last man in the bullpen, pitching long relief, or unless the club keeps 13 pitchers.

A trade seems a possibility, given that Boskie is the likely No. 5 starter and the Orioles can't send Krivda back to Rochester because he is out of minor-league options.

The uncertainty would drive some players bonkers, but not Krivda, who has become accustomed to uncertainty in his six years with the Orioles organization.

As successful as he was coming through the minors, where he compiled a 43-22 record from 1991-94, he never escaped the label of being a 23rd-round draft pick who didn't throw that hard and wasn't a top prospect.

And since making it to the bigs and becoming a semi-regular spot starter two years ago, he has made five different trips back to Rochester.

"It's pretty humbling," he said, "but it's just a given that I have to prove myself all the time, and I've gotten used to it. I actually have come to relish the challenge of proving that I deserve a place on the team."

He has been around long enough to learn one of the basic commandments of being a ballplayer: if you do a good job, the other stuff will always work out.

Thus, even though it would appear the Orioles have squeezed him out of a job, he still fully expects to pitch for them this season.

"I'm definitely going to pitch in the major leagues this year, and I hope it's with the Orioles," he said. "I spent '95 [his rookie year] learning what it took physically to pitch in the majors, and I spent last year learning what it took mentally, with all the setbacks. I feel like I'm ready to establish myself as a late bloomer, and this is the team I want to do it with."

He struggled yesterday in his second appearance of spring training, throwing more than 30 pitches and allowing a run before registering three outs, but pitching coach Ray Miller praised him after the game.

"I like him," Miller said. "He's a little different, with that funky overhand delivery. But he has good presence on the mound, he's an intelligent kid and he has a ton of guts, which he showed in Boston last year.

"You can work with a guy like that. He reminds me of a lot of the good lefties I've had."

The problems?

"He needs to keep the ball down more," Miller said, "but he knows that. He's a factor for us. It'll be interesting to see how the fifth starter thing works out. There's a lot of competition."

So much that Krivda might find himself on the outside, looking in.

Not that he is losing any sleep over the possibility.

"I have been in this position before," Krivda said, "and my name always seems to be there at the end. I'm just going to keep working hard and hope that's the case again."

Pub Date: 3/07/97

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