Game was a pain for Hoiles, Benitez Splintered bat hits catcher, line foul strikes reliever

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

both players appear OK

March 09, 1998|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The Orioles took more of a beating yesterday than the scoreboard showed. For catcher Chris Hoiles and reliever Armando Benitez, there wasn't a safe place outside of the clubhouse.

Hoiles was hit on the left rib cage by the sharp end of a broken bat while standing in the on-deck circle in the second inning of the Orioles' 12-9 loss to the Boston Red Sox. He was taken to the hospital for X-rays, which were negative, and manager Ray Miller said Hoiles should return by tomorrow.

Later, Benitez was struck on the left kneecap by a foul ball from Rafael Palmeiro while sitting in the open bullpen beyond the right-field line. He trotted into the clubhouse, got the knee wrapped, then joked about wanting to miss today's trip to Fort Myers. He'll be there.

Hoiles' incident appeared much more serious. Harold Baines' bat split as he lifted a lazy fly ball off Boston starter Butch Henry, and it struck Hoiles just below the chest. He turned and jogged into the dugout, where he stayed for about two minutes before returning to the field and completing his at-bat.

Hoiles grounded to first, then dressed and was taken for X-rays as a precaution. Splinters from the bat were stuck in his uniform jersey.

"There's no fracture, just a pretty good cut and bruise," said Hoiles, who had the area taped and wrapped, but didn't need stitches. "I heard the bat crack, and the next thing you know, it was flying at me. There's not a whole lot you can do."

Like any good catcher, he knocked it down and kept it in front of him.

"I wanted to try to stay in, but after that at-bat, it started to stiffen up pretty good. That was a good heart shot. It was more scary than anything," he said.

Benitez, who is scheduled to pitch today, said he didn't have time to avoid Palmeiro's liner. "It'll be fine, though," he said, between barbs from his teammates.

Miller said he assumed Benitez was joking about being hit. "I didn't see it. I thought it missed him."

Out of control

Right-hander Scott Kamieniecki couldn't reach his four-inning limit yesterday, coming out after throwing 62 pitches in 2 2/3 innings. He was charged with five runs and walked four, including three of the last four batters he faced.

The last walk forced in a run, and brought right-hander Sidney Ponson into the game.

"I went and got him only because I didn't want him throwing 70 pitches the second time out," Miller said.

"I think I was just getting a little tired, dragging a little bit," said Kamieniecki, who has allowed nine runs and walked six in 4 2/3 innings. "I just didn't execute very well. I feel fine physically."

Ponson's control wasn't any better.

He walked the first three hitters he faced to bring in three more runs and allowed a two-run single to Darren Lewis, as the Red Sox sent 11 batters to the plate.

Mathews' new form

One of pitching coach Mike Flanagan's spring projects involves fine-tuning the mechanics of reliever Terry Mathews, whose tendency to fall toward first base rather than the plate contributed to his problems over the second half of last season.

The club intends to find out just how much.

"With him peeling off toward first, I feel there's been a lot of wasted energy. That energy should be going toward the plate. That should help fastball velocity and help hide the ball better," Flanagan said.

"The hardest part about this is erasing the old habit. Sometimes, the correct way of doing it feels wrong."

Just about everything went right for Mathews yesterday, as he enjoyed his first scoreless outing of the spring. He didn't allow a hit and struck out one in 1 1/3 innings.

In his previous appearance, Mathews was told he gained an extra 4 mph on his fastball while throwing correctly about 50 percent of the time.

Mathews said he would throw fine on the side last year, but once the adrenalin kicked in during a game, his mechanics would suffer.

"As long as I let the ball go before I fell, everything was fine. But it gave me such a small margin for error," he said.

"When [Flanagan] corrected me, I told him it felt like I was throwing from down here," Mathews added, lowering his hand to the floor. "He said my arm slot was the same, it's just that now I was putting my body into it and didn't feel like I was using my arm as much because I'm allowing the rest of my body to work with it."

Snyder impresses again

Pitcher Matt Snyder gave the Orioles his second shutout inning of the spring in Saturday's game against Montreal in Jupiter, earning the save in an 8-5 win. Summoned to camp last month because of injuries, he's done a lot to get noticed in a short amount of time, and not just on the mound.

His composure has been just as impressive as his right arm.

"Last year, he was a nervous wreck," Miller said.

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