$84 million team doesn't wow Rogers

Sidelight

Pitcher for low-budget A's says O's aren't good `mix'

April 26, 1999|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Oakland pitcher Kenny Rogers looks at the Orioles and sees a club with quality players at every position. He doesn't, however, see a club the Athletics can't beat, no matter the difference in personnel, payrolls or playoff expectations.

"I knew they were struggling," Rogers said after the Orioles lost for the 11th time in 13 games, 11-10, to Oakland before a disgruntled crowd at Camden Yards.

"It's just a matter of the way things are happening right now. They're running into a good pitcher here and there who shuts them down when their guy goes out and throws a good game. And when they score a few, their pitcher doesn't really have it that day.

"It's just a bad combination for them because they're a better team than that. But they're in a division where they're not afforded the luxury of struggling. That's one of the drawbacks to being in the East."

There isn't a safe place for the Orioles anymore. And there aren't any patsies for a team with the worst record in the majors, including the Athletics, who had lost eight straight to them before taking the last two games of this series.

"People think we're not a good ballclub. We're a pretty good ballclub. Just because they spend more doesn't mean they're better," said Rogers, who left in the seventh inning with a 6-2 lead but didn't get the decision.

"I don't think they've had their mix yet, the players they want. I don't think they have the right chemistry, or whatever, for things to go along smoothly. But when they get guys healthy it's going to make a big difference. When Will [Clark] and Cal [Ripken] get back in the lineup it's going to be a lot better for them. It gets guys back in the roles they're supposed to be in."

Rogers, who was charged with one earned run, retired 10 of the first 12 batters before Albert Belle homered in the fourth. He noted how it was "a lot different" pitching to this lineup, minus players like Rafael Palmeiro and Roberto Alomar, who departed as free agents.

"Raffy was built for this park, just about. Those are two very good ballplayers and it's hard to replace them. I'm sure that didn't help them by any means," he said.

"Right now they haven't found their groove and how they want to play, but if you take them lightly they're going to beat you. Just like if people take us lightly we're going to beat you."

This is how far the Orioles have fallen: An Oakland pitcher warns about not taking lightly a team with an $84 million payroll. A team less than two full seasons removed from its second consecutive appearance in the AL Championship Series. A team that helped Tony Phillips celebrate his 40th birthday yesterday.

Phillips had been 0-for-4 with a walk and three strikeouts before launching a three-run homer off closer Mike Timlin in the ninth to provide the final margin. He was expecting orders to bunt from manager Art Howe with two runners on and nobody out, and even met with third base coach Ron Washington before stepping to the plate.

"I know the bunt sign but I wanted to make sure I knew what was going on. He said, `You're hacking,' " Phillips said.

"If you want to give credit, it's Art not bunting. It would have been very easy for him to give me the bunt sign and sacrifice the runners over to play for the tie, but he showed a lot of confidence in me to get the job done.

"I'm always looking for a situation like that. I'm not afraid to fail. I figure I'm a winner when I go up there. You keep fighting and keep fighting, and every now and then something good happens."

Eighteen games into the season, the Orioles are waiting for their turn.

Pub Date: 4/26/99

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