A's Haynes sees '96 as best, worst of times 3-6 Orioles season was frustrating, but pitcher used it as a turning point

July 23, 1998|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

It takes little prodding to find a frame of reference Oakland Athletics pitcher Jimmy Haynes uses when evaluating his success this season.

The phrase "1996" pops effortlessly from the mouth of one of this season's pleasant surprises, a pitcher who takes a 7-3 record and 3.91 ERA into tonight's start against the Orioles.

That was the year that Haynes tried splashing his way into a tough Orioles rotation, and flopped instead.

"It was the worst season I've ever had in pro ball," said Haynes, 25. "That's what makes it so memorable.

"I try to put that in the past, and move on and do better each time out. The reason I mention it is that I think that was a turning year for me. Going out I had a chance to make the rotation in Baltimore and it didn't work out; I had a rough season, things turned Haynes around and they ended up trading me."

But his performance this season makes 1996 seem a million years ago.

Consider that Haynes went head-to-head with Roger Clemens and Toronto on May 13, and won, 4-2. Five days later, he threw PTC complete-game shutout against the Chicago White Sox.

"It was one of those games where every pitch was the game," A's pitching coach Rick Peterson said of Haynes' outing against Toronto. "Against a pitcher like Clemens, he becomes almost larger than the team because he carries a team. You realize that you have to be on your game to give your team a chance and that's exactly what [Haynes] did."

The Athletics, initially unsure of what the cupboard contained aside from veterans Kenny Rogers and Tom Candiotti, now know to expect seven innings of solid pitching and to be in the game when Haynes pitches.

"I don't number my starters, but he's pitched very well, very consistent," A's manager Art Howe said. "It's just a matter of him getting experience and the opportunity to pitch. He's taken it by the horn and he's run with it."

Opportunities were there for Haynes in 1996. Results weren't. Twenty-six appearances, including 11 starts, yielded a 3-6 record and 8.29 ERA in a season that ended in the Instructional League.

Looking back, Haynes describes his ordeal as the product of youth, inexperience and impatience.

"I didn't have an idea about the guys up here," said Haynes, who was 2-1 with a 2.25 ERA in four games as a September call-up in 1995. "That, plus I got a little upset when things went wrong. I tried to overthrow and the harder you throw, the ball straightens up and the guys just whale on it."

Haynes tried staying away from baseball that winter, the sabbatical paying off as he went 5-4 with a 3.44 ERA at Triple-A Rochester before the Orioles sent him to Oakland for Geronimo Berroa on June 27, making his previous travails a mixed blessing.

"I came over to a young team that gave me an opportunity to go out every day and pitch," said Haynes, who has lost twice to the Orioles this season. "That was a big thing for me. Over here I probably wasn't going to get that chance."

After a short period at Triple-A Edmonton, Haynes made 13 starts for the A's in 1997, going 3-6 with a 4.42 ERA, before making his mark this season.

According to veteran catcher Mike Macfarlane, the remarkable part about Haynes' performance against Chicago was that he threw only fastballs and changeups, nothing else.

"He has a great arm and he's trying to make the transition from being a thrower to being a pitcher," Macfarlane said. "When a pitcher learns to win without his best stuff, that's when these changes start taking place."

Pub Date: 7/23/98

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