Johnson faces decision on Mathews Booed off mound, reliever says he owes team, not fans

October 06, 1997|By Joe Strauss and Roch Kubatko | Joe Strauss and Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Among Davey Johnson's first decisions for the American League Championship Series will be what to do about Terry Mathews.

Johnson acknowledged before yesterday's game against the Seattle Mariners that Mathews would not be available for the rest of the series in part because of the hostile reaction that greeted him during Saturday's ruinous ninth-inning appearance.

"I still have a lot of confidence in Mathews. I may not have as much to bring him in here in Camden Yards. I don't think the fans would appreciate it very much if I did," Johnson said. "They booed him [Saturday] night before he even threw one pitch.

"They don't remember the way he finished up in Milwaukee. He threw the ball very well in Milwaukee. He had a win and a save. A lot of this game is mental. If the fans are not happy to see you in the game, it makes it tough."

Mathews earned a win and a save in the season's final series, but he was gripped by a slump for most of the second half.

Mathews entered a 2-0 game Saturday and surrendered back-to-back home runs to Paul Sorrento and Jay Buhner within a span of four pitches. The 4-0 deficit became more significant when the Orioles rallied for two runs in the Mathews bottom of the inning.

In the most hostile reaction given an Orioles player at home this season, Mathews was hooted from the field.

Teammates said Mathews, a quiet personality, was visibly affected. He showered, dressed and left the clubhouse without comment after Game 3.

Mathews theorizes that his uneven appearance has contributed to the negative reaction he has received recently.

Said Mathews: "I don't look like a ballplayer. That's the only explanation that I've got. I'm sorry God didn't bless me with an Eric Davis body. That's not my fault. I'm within 5 pounds of what I weighed as a senior in high school.

"It's not like I'm not doing my work. This is me. This is where I'm at. That was the hardest part for me to understand. I had the 'why me?' going. That's where this team really picked me up."

Mathews has long raved about playing in Baltimore. But his weekend experience, which infuriated his teammates, left him queasy.

"It took awhile to sink in, but I have a little bit different attitude now. If these [fans] like me, they like me; and if they don't, I've got 25 guys in here and the coaching staff who I'm going to play for. That's the way it's going to be," Mathews said.

"This series is over. When I step on the mound next series, instead of looking at that 18.00 ERA, I'm going to be looking at a 0.00. It hurt, but I finally realized it. So now I'm going on with a little bit of a different attitude."

Mathews, a six-year veteran who was obtained in August 1996 from the Florida Marlins for catcher Gregg Zaun, insisted that he had no problem with his performance being criticized. He was set back by the greeting.

"When I left the park, I was pretty down. I was dumbfounded," said Mathews, who turned 33 yesterday. "When I go out and give up two home runs, you can boo me out of the stadium. I do not care.

"But the reaction coming into the game dumbfounded me. If they think I did that bad of a job, then the hell with them. I didn't. If I did, I wouldn't be here right now. It's not going to be a popular xTC

stance. But that's the way I'm going to have to be to help this team."

Pub Date: 10/06/97

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