Cards' Slocumb glad for new deck

Sidelight

Flourishing in St. Louis, reliever unloads on Miller

August 11, 1999|By Ken Rosenthal | Ken Rosenthal,SUN COLUMNIST

PHILADELPHIA -- Like so many former Orioles, Heathcliff Slocumb is getting the last laugh. But the veteran reliever still can't believe that his career with the Orioles lasted only 8 2/3 innings.

"I didn't call Baltimore. Baltimore called me. They did the pursuing. You don't pursue someone, then give them a half-chance," said Slocumb, who signed a one-year, $1.1 million contract with the Orioles on Jan. 15.

Orioles general manager Frank Wren disputes Slocumb's account, contending that it was the reliever's agent who initiated contact with the team last January.

In any case, the Orioles released Slocumb on April 30, and he has since revived his career with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Slocumb, 33, allowed 24 base runners in 8 2/3 innings with the Orioles, posting a 12.46 ERA. With the Cardinals, he's 3-1 with one save and a 2.63 ERA.

"He's really throwing the ball with good command. He's been available a lot. He's pitched in just about every situation," St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said.

Still, the Cardinals are Slocumb's seventh team in the past seven seasons. He said he holds no grudge against the Orioles -- "If not for what happened there, I wouldn't be here" -- but indicated that he didn't click with manager Ray Miller.

"Ray said something about how no one took charge in spring training as far as the setup role," Slocumb said. "My last five appearances in the spring were scoreless. It was really disappointing, that you didn't have people behind you.

"I understand the manager wants you to throw strikes. Of course. But you've got to know exactly what you're getting. I never claimed to be [Dennis] Eckersley. But you can still be successful even if you have a few walks. If you're put in a situation where you can have success, you can build on it."

But Slocumb said his problems with the Orioles began in spring training.

"I knew something was wrong when I had a 1-2-3 outing in my first intrasquad game, and the first thing that was said was that they didn't like the way I warmed up," Slocumb said, declining to say whether that criticism came from Miller or pitching coach Bruce Kison.

"I've got eight years in the big leagues. I'm pretty durable. I know how to get people out. And I can guarantee you, I know how to warm up. When they said that, I just thought, `Keep an open mind.' I do claim to have some experience, some success in the majors. Don't tell me I don't know how to warm up. That was just mind-boggling."

Responded Miller: "Flanny [Mike Flanagan, who served as a spring instructor] and Bruce said something to me about it. He didn't really seem to gear up in the bullpen and we mentioned something to him. I guess that's the way he'd always done it. But when you've had control problems your entire career and you get around people who know something about pitching, you might think there would be more receptiveness."

Bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks explained that Slocumb only wanted to make 12 tosses in the bullpen before entering the game. The habit irritated Miller when Slocumb consistently exhibited poor control and was reluctant to use his fastball.

Sun staff writer Joe Strauss contributed to this article.

Breakdown

Orioles' record: 50-63 Extra innings: 5-4

At home: 27-28 Series wins: 11

On road: 23-35 Series losses: 23

On grass: 46-50 Series splits: 2

On turf: 4-13 Series sweeps: 6

Day games: 15-20 Vs. AL East: 9-26

Night games: 35-43 Vs. AL Central: 16-10

One-run games: 11-21 Vs. AL West: 14-20

Two-run games: 8-10 Vs. NL: 11-7

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