Each time Randy Myers had taken a seat in the Orioles' bullpen lately, he also plopped down on No. 299.
That was the number of career saves he had been sitting on for more than a week before getting the call in the ninth inning of last night's interleague game against the Philadelphia Phillies before 47,610 at Camden Yards. Because of the Orioles' recent slide and Monday night's rout, Myers hadn't made an appearance since June 22 in Toronto.
He made last night's count.
Brought in to protect a 4-1 lead, Myers was confronted with four straight pinch hitters. He walked Kevin Sefcik, then struck out Kevin Jordan, Ruben Amaro and Mike Lieberthal swinging. With the last strike came a roar from the crowd, black and orange streamers onto the field and a souvenir from catcher Lenny Webster.
Myers, 34, is the second-youngest player to reach 300 after Lee Smith, and he moved into a tie with Bruce Sutter for eighth on baseball's all-time list. But he sounded as though he was too busy keeping an eye on the standings and his teammates to notice.
"The big thing about getting a save tonight is we caught a game on the Yankees, and Rafael [Palmeiro] had a couple of good hits, and he's been struggling a little bit," said Myers of the Orioles first baseman, who almost cost him a chance at the save with a near-home run single off the right-field scoreboard in the eighth inning. "We've got a two-game winning streak and hopefully we can carry this over a little bit.
"Personally, it's a good accomplishment, but the thing is, it's 26 saves this year, which means the bullpen and starting pitchers have done their job and the hitters have done their job to get a lead. It's another save for the bullpen because we work as a team down there."
Asked what 300 saves meant to him, Myers reached back to touch on Nos. 275 through 280. "It means 35 saves for at least eight years in a row. It's consistency," he said.
Last night was special for manager Davey Johnson because he was with Myers for his first save, against the Atlanta Braves in 1987, when the left-hander pitched for the New York Mets. Myers had been a starter in the minor leagues until Johnson decided he was too fidgety to wait between starts.
"We made the decision early that he was a nervous wreck and he needed to be in the bullpen," Johnson said. "Really, it retarded him because he didn't get his good slider going until about the third year he was relieving. Then, to go with the 96-mph fastball that he could spot, he became the consummate reliever.
"Randy is a lieutenant out there. He knows what he needs to do. Even when I went out to shake his hand, he said, 'How about me walking the leadoff hitter? How did you like that?' I know he feels terrible about it. But he was a little rusty."
As Myers finished off the Phillies in his 627th career relief appearance, he also concluded his longest idle stretch of the season. Johnson had tried to get him into a couple of games over the last week, but was rebuffed.
"I asked if he wanted to get an inning here, an inning there," Johnson said. "I called him [Monday] night and said, 'Do you want to finish this?' He said, 'No, I've been throwing a lot on the side.' "
Myers, who has a 1.39 ERA and only one blown save chance in 34 outings, also had been long tossing and lifting weights on a daily basis, "just trying to keep myself healthy and build strength back," he said. "But you have to be ready to pitch every day, too."
Last month, Myers got into nine games in 15 days, including all three in the Atlanta series. He had pitched only once since June 17 before last night.
"He needed a rest," said pitching coach Ray Miller. "He was on pace for 70 or 80 appearances."
"You prepare yourself to pitch every day in our role," said Myers, in his 13th season. "For me, it's never been a problem, pitching too much. I think my numbers have proved it over my career. You might get eight, nine, 10 days off, then all of a sudden it's six days in a row. Those fifth and sixth days catch up to you a little bit because your body's readapting. If you're pitching consistently, it's really not a problem."
The more Myers climbs up the saves chart, the closer he gets to the Hall of Fame.
"I'm just trying to help my team win. I don't look at it," he said. "I look at the fact I've been on playoff teams, I've been on World Series teams. I know that whenever my career ends, I've given it the best I could, day in and day out. I can look back and tip my hat to the game and say I gave it my all, and I'll be out of the game, whenever that is."
Where Randy Myers ranks among all-time saves leaders:
Pitcher .. .. .. .. .. .. No.
Lee Smith . .. .. .. .. 478
Dennis Eckersley ... .. 369
Jeff Reardon ... .. .. .. 367
x-John Franco .. .. .. .. 342
Rollie Fingers . .. .. .. 341
Tom Henke ... .. .. .. .. 311
Rich Gossage ... .. .. .. 310
Bruce Sutter ... .. .. .. 300
x-Randy Myers .. .. .. .. 300
x-Doug Jones ... .. .. .. 260
Pub Date: 7/02/97