Kamieniecki throws foes spring curve Stronger elbow gives Oriole wider arsenal

March 14, 1998|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

VERO BEACH, Fla. -- Orioles pitcher Scott Kamieniecki is giving hitters something else to think about this spring: his curveball.

At this point last year, Kamieniecki was keeping the pitch under wraps, not wanting to put too much strain on a right elbow fresh off surgery. He used the curve sparingly in the first half of the season, relying mostly on his fastball and change, but still managed to tie his career high with 10 victories and earn a two-year, $6.2 million contract to go with assurances that he would remain the club's fourth starter.

Yesterday, Kamieniecki took some air out of a bloated ERA with a solid 60-pitch, four-inning stint in the Orioles' 4-0 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Exhibiting better command than in his first two starts, he limited the Dodgers to one run on three hits, striking out two.

"I wasn't that far off the last couple games, even though the results weren't there. I would have been concerned if I didn't make any good pitches, but I'd make two or three good ones and a couple bad ones, so I saw it coming. Today, I was a little more consistent within the count. I didn't go too deep in too many of them. I threw strikes," he said.

Kamieniecki couldn't get out of the third inning in his last start, walking four and surrendering five runs. He had gone two innings before that, giving up four runs and walking two. Results may not be overly important in the spring, but it was time for Kamieniecki to improve on his.

"I thought Kammy pitched much better today," said manager Ray Miller. "Mike [Flanagan] has made a few changes with him from the stretch. He has more weight on his back foot so it doesn't take so long to get rid of the ball. I like it. He was around the plate a lot more and worked a little bit faster."

Said Kamieniecki: "Before, there was too much movement, Kamieniecki too much swaying [from the stretch]. I was never getting to the point where I was balanced. You've got to be strong on the back leg so you can transfer the weight, and I was never getting that."

Kamieniecki's worst inning yesterday was his last. He hit Mike Piazza to open the fourth, and Eric Karros singled to left. He saw daylight after Raul Mondesi bounced into a double play, but former Oriole Todd Zeile grounded a single to left for a 1-0 lead.

Kamieniecki said the curve, which he was able to throw behind in the count, is "another pitch you put in their minds." It's also good only if you can throw it for strikes, as he did yesterday.

"It's an out pitch for me. Last year, for obvious reasons, I couldn't throw it as much as I like to. I was being a little more cautious. This year, I have the arm strength."

And not as much wasted motion.

"He's doing a little less with his delivery, not going over his head so much with his arms," Miller said. "He just stays compact, stepping and throwing, and I think that's going to save a little wear and tear."

That will be important, with Miller having said he's willing to extend Kamieniecki more during the season. Last year, the right-hander averaged six innings per start -- a figure Miller would like to pad.

"I need to be a little more consistent so I don't have so many high pitch counts. I get 90 to 100 pitches, I can still get seven innings out of that, where last year it took me 90 to 95 to get through six innings. I can be a little more economical, and I think the strength I got in the off-season with my conditioning will help me do that," Kamieniecki said.

"They're showing confidence in me by having me back. Now, it's up to me to prove them right."

Pub Date: 3/14/98

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