Flanagan speeds to aid of Mussina fastball

Ex-coach says ace too tight, 'forcing' pitch

Clark does light workout

May 12, 2000|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Former Orioles pitching coach Mike Flanagan spoke with Mike Mussina on the team charter Wednesday night back to Baltimore. Trying to put the memory of a three-game sweep in Toronto behind them, they also looked ahead to Mussina's next outing, and sought ways to avoid prolonging the worst start of his career.

Flanagan, currently an analyst on Home Team Sports, said Mussina has been "jumpy" with his fastball. He's overthrowing it, a problem that also surfaced during spring training, and he's paying a stiff price. Mussina has allowed 12 home runs in 58 1/3 innings while falling to 1-4 with a 4.78 ERA.

"It was maybe his third or fourth start this spring," Flanagan said. "When Moose in the past has overthrown, the ball comes up and he loses his accuracy. ...

"What's been confusing for him is his curveball is excellent and his changeup is excellent, but his fastball location is not. Usually it happens in reverse."

Flanagan said it appears that Mussina's body is doing more work than his arm. "Too much effort. Too much leg, too much push off," Flanagan said.

"It's about feel right now. It's not about injury. He's not stiff, he's not tired. It's like he's trying too hard. He's trying to manufacture more on his fastball. The grip tightens, the wrist tightens, and you lose the exact thing you're looking for - the free arm swing. Moose is grinding his fastball right now, forcing it. He just needs to let it out."

Flanagan met with pitching coach Sammy Ellis yesterday before Mussina ventured to the bullpen for his usual side session with the three agreeing to work on fastball location.

"With Moose, what always makes him so good is unpredictability," Flanagan said. "He has five pitches, and when he uses them in a mix, they're all above average and he's able to throw them in any count. What he's been down to his last couple of outings has really just been a curveball."

Both Mussina and Flanagan have tried to downplay their conversations. "I think maybe too much is being made of this," Flanagan said. "I talk to Moose all year long. I talked to Moose all spring.

"Maybe I have a longer history with Moose. The thing with Sammy Ellis is, he really hasn't had [Mussina] where he's been locked in and as good as he can be. He's pitched some really good games, but he hasn't been locked in. I've got old film of Moose and I know Sammy's looked at them.

"It's more about feel right now. You find out from Moose what he's feeling and try to fix it."

Bracing for Pedro

Though not wanting to look beyond last night's game, the Orioles knew Pedro Martinez was lurking in the shadows. Last year's Cy Young Award winner makes his first start tonight since being suspended five days for throwing at Cleveland's Roberto Alomar.

First baseman Jeff Conine said he welcomes the challenge. He's also grateful that it comes on a limited basis.

"As a hitter, you want that, but you're happy that you only have to face him two or three times a year," Conine said. "He'll be the best pitcher we face all year, especially now that Randy Johnson is gone.

Those two right now have pretty much established themselves above the rest of the competition."

"He's tough," said catcher Charles Johnson. "You know he's going to go out and pitch a good ballgame. You've just got to try to execute. When guys are on, you've got to get them over and get them in. You're not going to play a lot of long ball with him."

Clark tests hamstring

First baseman Will Clark did some light hitting and fielding before last night's game, his first significant activity since going on the disabled list May 3 with a strained left hamstring.

Clark laid down a few bunts before spraying line drives against coach Brian Graham. He later took throws at first base during batting practice.

Manager Mike Hargrove has said he expects Clark's return to be "close" to Thursday, when he's eligible to be activated.

Around the horn

Brady Anderson's tleadoff homer last night was the 38th of his career, second to Rickey Henderson's 75 on the all-time list. His two-run double in the fourth inning moved him past Paul Blair for sixth place on the Orioles' hit list with 1,427. ... Boston shortstop Nomar Garciaparra left the game in the first inning with a strained left hamstring. He was replaced by Andy Sheets.

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