DeShields silences boos with two hits

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Hairston fans judge return

Timlin warms to success

July 25, 1999|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Second baseman Delino DeShields picked up his first two hits since June 19, including a second-inning double. He was thrown out trying for third on his drive to right-center field, but at least showed that he had recovered from the strained right hamstring that cost him 28 games.

He also got to hear some applause, which was scarce during his return on Friday.

Rookie Jerry Hairston's popularity had grown during his stint here, and the club's decision to send him back to Triple-A Rochester when DeShields was activated apparently didn't sit well with some fans, who booed DeShields' offensive and defensive work Friday.

"It's kind of unfair," manager Ray Miller said. "There were a couple balls that nobody could get to. I guess it's just people missing Jerry. But [DeShields] will be fine. All you've got to do is get a couple hits and get rolling."

DeShields had hit in six straight games before going on the disabled list, batting .450 (9-for-20). He's hitting .358 (44-for-123) in his last 36 games, raising his average from .135 to .274.

See the ball, be

As a means of improving his performance, Orioles closer Mike Timlin has taken to using a visualization technique while warming in the bullpen.

He sees an imaginary hitter and turns it into an overmatched one -- the same look the real ones have worn against Timlin since just before the All-Star break.

Pitching exclusively in the ninth inning, Timlin hasn't allowed a run in his last five appearances dating back to July 10. He's struck out five and walked only one in 4 2/3 innings. Most important to the Orioles, he's converted two straight saves, protecting a one-run lead Friday for only the second time this season.

This is an abrupt shift for Timlin, who was charged with three losses and two blown saves in a span of five outings from June 25 to July 6. He leads the majors with eight blown saves in 18 chances.

The turnaround began in the bullpen, with Timlin going through an inning in his head before doing it for real.

"I pick out three or four guys that I'm going to pitch to and throw my pitches where I want," he said. "In my mind, if they hit it, it's a weak ground ball. If they swing, it's a swing and a miss. And if they don't swing, it's a strike. It's positive reinforcement."

With the starters going deeper into games, Miller says the rest afforded Timlin and the other relievers, along with more defined roles, has led to better results.

"Guys have been in one out of eight [games], one out of nine, instead of five out of six," Miller said.

"We're trying to restore some order to who comes out and when they come out of the bullpen, and that's always dictated by your starters. Hopefully we've got a little bit of a roll going. Everybody's pitching well and in the right spots."

Figga target of praise

Though he's batting just .206 since being claimed off waivers from the New York Yankees, catcher Mike Figga has done enough in his brief time here to thoroughly impress Miller.

Figga started consecutive games for the first time in his career, giving Charles Johnson a much-needed rest before his return to the lineup yesterday. Figga went 2-for-7, but got noticed more for his ability to block pitches in the dirt and set a good target for starters Scott Erickson and Juan Guzman.

"Figga's done a good job. That's why we chose to keep him," Miller said. "He's a young guy who blocks the ball well, and if you give him a chance he's a very good thrower. I like his makeup. He's got a pretty good feel for the game."

Miller said he'd like to consistently pair Figga with one of the starters, as he used to do with Erickson and Lenny Webster. Guzman would seem a good partner after eight shutout innings Friday, but he may have just one more start left with the Orioles as the trade deadline approaches.

"That would give him more playing time and keep Charles more rested," Miller said, adding that he doesn't have a candidate in mind. "I think the weather's going to help me find out."

Duds of the future

The Orioles will wear "futuristic-style" uniforms today as part of a turn-ahead-the-clock game that also will include a graphically enhanced scoreboard and modified sound system.

Miller didn't seem to oppose the uniforms, which include a black jersey with silver lettering and trim and shorter sleeves. The most interesting feature is the name on the back, which runs down the right side beside the number.

"They're not near as bad as I expected," Miller said. "I figured we'd have space helmets and goggles."

Around the horn

Garret Anderson extended his hitting streak to 15 games with a one-out single in the fourth inning, the Angels' first hit off Jason Johnson. After two days off, Charles Johnson had three of the Orioles' 17 hits. The crowd of 48,544 eclipsed the previous Oriole Park regular-season record of 48,531 this June 5 against Philadelphia.

Pub Date: 7/25/99

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