Hargrove demands focus, preparation

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Manager addresses team after Friday loss

Myers breaks blood vessel

June 25, 2000|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

SEATTLE - Seven consecutive losses, a tumble to within a game of last place and one of his team's most uninspired efforts of a disappointing season pushed fed-up manager Mike Hargrove to conduct a 20-minute clubhouse meeting after Friday's 8-3 loss to the Seattle Mariners. There was no give-and-take to the meeting as Hargrove was the only speaker, emphasizing a need for preparedness and focus.

While the Orioles dropped to 30-41 Friday, their farthest fall from .500, Hargrove has yet to criticize his team's effort. However, he wanted to stem the "cumulative" affect of a losing streak that has coincided with mounting speculation about the possibility of a clubhouse purge.

Hargrove had long resisted airing out his team, saying such tactics must be used carefully - "firing a bullet," he calls it. A number of players expressed surprise only that the manager had held his tongue this long.

While declining to disclose his message to the team, Hargrove left the clear impression that he did not leave any issue untouched.

"I didn't shoot a bullet, but I may have lobbed one," he said.

But after Friday's loss in which another early lead was blown behind an uninspiring starting pitching performance, Hargrove kept the clubhouse closed while he addressed his team.

"I think in general Grover has been a clearheaded manager who stands behind his players. I think all his players will do the same for him. The more he talks to us, the better, whether we're winning or losing," said center fielder Brady Anderson.

However, there was no sugarcoating to the message. While Hargrove had met with his team before games this season, Friday night marked the first time in 71 games he had critiqued them afterward.

Allowing four runs in both the fifth and sixth innings, Scott Erickson allowed 10 of the last 11 hitters he faced to reach base. He left the clubhouse without commenting afterward.

Including yesterday's loss, the Orioles are 1-13 on the road since May 30 and already have lost as many games away from Camden Yards this season as they did through July 30 last season. They have now gone 10 consecutive road series without a series win.

Erickson's start helped hike the team's road ERA to 6.55 compared to 4.57 at home. In its 10 starts entering yesterday's game, the rotation was 1-7 with a 10.19 ERA. The Orioles had allowed at least eight runs in each of their seven straight losses prior to yesterday.

"I always think it's a combination of things. You need your pitching, your defense and your offense," said Anderson. "You're going to run into a team that scores seven or eight runs. You're going to run into a guy like tonight [Friday's Mariners starter Gil Meche]. To have any winning streak, you're going to maintain a high level in all areas. That's what good teams do."

The Orioles haven't done those things since putting together a six-game winning streak that pulled them within four games of .500 before they lost consecutive home games to the Anaheim Angels on the eve of the current road trip.

Myers hurting again

Catcher Greg Myers sustained another nagging injury during Friday's loss as he suffered a broken blood vessel in his left hand. The hand immediately became swollen and very painful.

The discomfort contributed to a couple of strikeout pitches from Chuck McElroy that skipped past him. John Mabry reached base on the second, leaving McElroy to strike out three and induce a fly ball in the seventh inning.

Myers finished the game behind the plate, contributing three hits as well, and is considered day-to-day.

Surhoff extends streak

The Orioles' offensive highlights were few yesterday but left fielder B. J. Surhoff extended his hitting streak to 18 games with a two-out, first-inning single. Surhoff later scored the Orioles' only run on Jeff Conine's base hit. Surhoff has used the streak to rehabilitate his batting average from .237 to .270. Along the way he has contributed three home runs, five doubles, 15 RBIs and scored 13 runs.

"I'm seeing the ball pretty well right now. Beyond that, I really don't want to get into it," he said. "I just wish I could do more to help us get off the snide."

The surge has come as no surprise to Hargrove, a strong Surhoff supporter.

"If you watch B. J. Surhoff play the game, he backs up every base," Hargrove said. "If there's a ball down the right-field line, he backs up third base. Terry Crowley told me today B. J. reminds him of Pete Rose the way he plays the game. I think that's a fair assessment. He's in the game. He runs everything out. He's always on charge. He's a very talented hitter."

In control

By concentrating on first things first, Seattle left-hander John Halama found the groove he had been missing since starting the season 6-0.

"I've been solid in my last couple of starts, but I wasn't getting the first pitch over for a strike," Halama said after his eight-inning, one-run, no-walk outing. "Today I was ahead in the count, and I didn't walk anyone."

Around the horn

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