Johnson puts knock on Tigers


Catcher's not criticizing, just finding homer route

August 07, 1999|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Orioles catcher Charles Johnson considers himself a streaky hitter, especially when it comes to the long ball. His home runs arrive in bunches.

Against the Detroit Tigers, they arrive on schedule.

The Orioles and Tigers were meeting for the fifth time last night and, for the fifth straight game against Detroit, Johnson homered, a two-run shot in the ninth.

On May 8 at Tiger Stadium, Johnson twice went deep.

"I can't explain it and I'm not even trying to figure it out," he said.

Johnson's homer on Thursday was his first since June 25 against the New York Yankees. It also continued an offensive revival.

After last night, he has 11 RBIs in his past eight games. He has gone 8-for-29 (.276) in that span.

Manager Ray Miller has been more adamant about working backup Mike Figga into the lineup so Johnson can rest. Another benefit has been some extra sessions with hitting coach Terry Crowley. The advice always is simple. The results usually are immediate.

"I'm just trying to stay on top of the ball a little more," he said. "I want to find a way to put the barrel on the ball like I was early on and as quickly as possible. That's when good things happen.

"I'm trying to be more consistent in the second half."

Said Miller: "Crow's done a great job with him and I think he'll have another big run here. He'll end up with a decent amount of home runs."

Orosco must wait

After last night, left-hander Jesse Orosco was still three appearances short of Dennis Eckersley's record for most games pitched at 1,071. He would have needed to get into the last three games of this series to reach the milestone at home, since the club goes on a six-game trip to Tampa Bay and Cleveland beginning Monday.

Count Miller among the Orioles who would like to see the record fall at Camden Yards. But he won't create opportunities for Orosco just to make it happen.

"Maybe I could have done it if he had pitched [Thursday] night," said Miller, who had Orosco warming but didn't use him.

"I think you get in trouble when you try to create things, so you've just got to let it happen. Wherever it happens, it happens. It's like Rip [Cal Ripken] needs one homer for 400 and 32 hits for 3,000. When you start delaying things for that to happen, you never know what'll happen."

Advice for Murray

The news that bench coach Eddie Murray will be managing the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League was met with enthusiasm by Miller, who recently had offered some advice on the subject.

"I talked to Eddie about a month ago," Miller said. "I said, `If you have any inspiration to manage in the future, you're going to have to go do it, either winter ball -- which I know he doesn't want to do -- or instructional league or out there.

"Eddie's all fired up about winning, but that's an instructional league. You get x amount of players from five different clubs. Eddie doesn't know any of this, but each guy comes along with instructions. They want this guy to throw four innings every start, they want this guy to pitch every fourth day, they want this guy to catch every other day and work on this and that. But it's a good experience.

"Eddie's biggest problems as a manager will be talking to umpires and having to deal with the press. As a player, you deal with the press when you want to. You have a good day, you can sit there and talk all you want. You have a real bad day, you can go in the other room and wait a couple days, until you've got your thoughts completely together. There's a big difference."

Important for Minor

Miller said he believes the time Ryan Minor spends filling in for Ripken at third base is more important for the player than his manager. Miller is confident that Minor can play at this level. He wants to make sure Minor feels the same about himself.

"He's going to play in the big leagues, there's no doubt about it," Miller said. "If you look at his minor-league credentials, he really hasn't played a whole lot of baseball as compared to most people. I think this time here is for himself, just to get his feet on the ground and feel like he can compete here."

It'll be easier to convince Minor if he can reduce his strikeouts.

"One part of that is learning the pitchers," Miller said. "In the minor leagues, if somebody is really, really good, you'll only see them once or twice and they go on. When you get here and you establish yourself, you start seeing the same pitchers year in and year out, so that's a comfort zone."

Minor went 0-for-3 last night.

Incredulous on McGwire

Miller and Ripken were awed by Mark McGwire reaching 500 career homers Thursday, especially since he got No. 400 last season.

"I was walking around here [the clubhouse] last night and they showed his 400th last year and I said, `Oh, my God,' " Miller said. "Then Cal said, `You want to hear something funny? I was ahead of him at the start of [1997].' That's remarkable."

Around the horn

Reliever Mike Fetters, on the disabled list since June 7 with a right-elbow strain, threw 30 pitches in a workout in Phoenix yesterday and reported no difficulties. Fetters will return to Baltimore today to continue rehabbing from surgery to remove bone spurs from the elbow. All fans 14 and under attending tonight's game will receive a sports equipment bag. All fans attending tomorrow's game will receive a pair of sunglasses. The Baltimore Reads Books to the Ballpark campaign is seeking donations of new or "gently used" children's books to be collected at tomorrow's game at Camden Yards. Books will be collected at gates A, C and H.

Pub Date: 8/07/99

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