Mechanic Flanagan helps Orosco get control in gear Video analysis finds flaw, starts reliever on tear

Sidelight

June 11, 1998|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

PHILADELPHIA -- To Orioles pitching coach Mike Flanagan, anyone who makes his living throwing a baseball is a fine-tuned machine. With this in mind, reliever Jesse Orosco knew where to go when he needed some tinkering.

Orosco sought out Flanagan about a month ago, trying to regain his lost control and the advantage he once had over left-handed hitters. His reliability in question, late-inning jams no longer called for his services.

"Flanny went at him pretty hard," said manager Ray Miller. "Since then, he's been getting his breaking ball over and he has a better curveball."

And opposing batters have a problem.

Orosco hasn't permitted a run in his past 10 appearances, spanning 10 2/3 innings. He has given up only one hit and walked three.

"We decided to go to the video and compare last year to this year. We picked out a few things," said Orosco, who had retired 18 straight batters over six outings until Seattle's David Segui singled on June 1.

"Mike said, 'I want to see what I see and maybe we can figure it out.' And he did. He hit it right on the button."

The rewind button. Upon further review, Flanagan noticed that Orosco was keeping his elbow too low before following through.

"I was opening up a little too fast. I didn't stay closed," said Orosco, adding that bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks has made certain his mechanics remain sound.

"No matter how long you play, you have to stay on top of your game somehow. You have to continue to be a student of the game. Everything I can do to help myself, I'll do."

Flanagan regarded the changes as "nothing too technical."

"He was just breaking his hands a little differently. Now he's got the bite back on his breaking ball and the zip back on his fastball. If your delivery's good, then you can pitch. If your delivery's not good, if it doesn't feel right, then you're not going to pitch well.

"You just try to get them to where they don't even have to think about their deliveries. They just go through it. Then they can think about getting the hitter out. They always say the war has to be against the hitter and not against yourself."

It's a battle Orosco keeps winning. He got out of two bases-loaded jams in the first two games here, earning his fourth save Monday night after inducing Mark Lewis to hit into a double play.

"I had to alter my pitching, too. I was getting behind on batters a lot. I started being aggressive, getting ahead in the count. It's just another adjustment," he said.

"It was very helpful, what Mike did. I'm their setup man, and they want to keep me on top of myself. I did hit a bad spell where I was getting behind in the count and giving up a lot of hits. In that sense, they can't just be throwing me into a 3-2 game in the eighth inning. Now, I've earned my way back into their trust."

Part of that comes from producing better results against left-handers. Orosco has lowered their average against him to .290 (9-for-31) with only three walks and 10 strikeouts.

With Armando Benitez returning from his eight-game suspension and Orosco returning to form, Miller feels well-armed again for the late innings.

"I'm comfortable with them," he said.

Pub Date: 6/11/98

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