Jays' Myers closes out talk of stint with Orioles Reliever's success continues with Toronto

Sidelight

June 13, 1998|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

TORONTO -- The hand grenade is gone because he couldn't get it through customs. But the camouflage is here, along with the ankle-high black shoes, the ever-present TV remote and the contrarian attitude.

Randy Myers, last year's Orioles MVP, is alive and well with the Toronto Blue Jays, handling a familiar job in a different country for a team carrying less-grandiose expectations. For Myers, past is past no matter how biting the circumstances that accompanied him north of the border.

"I said my piece in December 1997 and I'm not going to rehash it. I'm with the Toronto Blue Jays trying to help this club win. That's where I'm at," he said yesterday.

Myers gave the Orioles one of the best seasons by any closer anywhere last season. He converted 45 of 46 save chances, was named Fireman of the Year and became a far more efficient pitcher than the one who seemed to make every save an ordeal in 1996.

When he arrived at free agency, the Orioles offered him two years plus an option, but the Blue Jays stepped up with three guaranteed years worth $18 million, the most ever showered upon a reliever.

Myers didn't just take the money. He vented his frustrations over everything from manager Davey Johnson's departure, to playoff seating for family members to inconsistent travel arrangements.

Pressed for his recollection of the time and whether he carries any regrets, Myers said, "The articles are written. They're on file. Go back and read them."

Myers said he hasn't kept up with the Orioles "any more than any other team." He refrained from offering any opinion on his successor, Armando Benitez, and the inconsistencies that have hurt a reshaped bullpen. He did say that losing 60 percent of the starting rotation has created a skewed perception of a talented club.

"You look, and they've had a lot of injuries. They're a veteran club. They're in a wild-card spot, kind of like we are. They've got Moose [Mike Mussina] back. And they're a team you know you're going to have to deal with," Myers said.

Just as the Orioles have lacked an everyday presence as closer, Myers has lacked the opportunities he came to expect with his former team. Last night's 9-5 loss was another example.

"When the young guys play to their ability, we're winning. When they make young-guy mistakes, we're losing. But that was something you knew was going to happen," Myers said. "Because they haven't been .500 the last four years, we have to get to .500 ball. There are two avenues of .500 baseball. One is to play .500 and be happy. The other is to play .500 and think you should be higher. We've got a lot of young players here who haven't been on a winning team.

"We've played to our potential and won some games, then lost a few since then. Once you raise the standard, you go to the next level."

Myers is fourth in the American League with 16 saves in 18 opportunities. He suffered a blown save April 20 against New York and another May 14 vs. Anaheim. He nearly went a calendar year without a blown chance -- his only mishap with the Orioles last season came May 3, the same day that he refused to participate in a Mother's Day flower giveaway -- and at one point converted 37 straight, the fourth-longest streak ever.

Myers entered last night with 50 conversions in 52 opportunities and now owns 335 during his career.

The Orioles, meanwhile, have groped for a late-inning answer. The bullpen has bungled nine of 24 save opportunities and carried a 5.21 ERA into last night's game. (The 1997 bullpen crafted a 3.33 ERA.) Left-handers Jesse Orosco and Arthur Rhodes have at times inherited the closer role, in part because of Benitez's eight-game suspension after a May 19 brawl in New York.

Myers refuses to make any inferences except to say, "When I was signed in '95, it was to help the ballclub go to the postseason. The two years I was there we went to the postseason. It was something that benefited the whole organization."

Pub Date: 6/13/98

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