Parrish dazzles in losing debut

Yankees prevail, 4-3, but O's lefty allows 1 hit last 4 innings

July 25, 2000|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

One day, John Parrish will regale his grandchildren with the story of his first major-league game. He'll work in how the opposing team was the defending world champions and include details about the Hall of Fame pitcher he dueled.

Most certainly, he'll go over the first inning batter by batter. Better yet, pitch by pitch.

Starting for the Orioles last night, Parrish struck out the side in the first and walked off the field to a thunderous ovation. As if that wasn't enough, he outlasted Roger Clemens by going seven innings and shut out the New York Yankees after the third. Only the ending, a 4-3 loss before 47,450 at Camden Yards, will need to be embellished.

Parrish may choose to gloss over the third inning, when the Yankees pushed across three runs that decided the outcome. But he allowed fewer hits than Clemens, walked fewer batters and struck out more of them. Mixing in a 91-mph fastball with a wicked curveball and changeup, he did just about everything right except win. And that might have happened if the Orioles hadn't gone 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position.

The Yankees had only one hit after the third inning, a single by Chestertown's Ryan Thompson with two outs in the seventh on a pitch low and away that he nearly played off the dirt. Of the last 14 outs that Parrish recorded, only one reached the outfield. He gave up three earned runs and four hits, and his nine strikeouts tied Sammy Stewart's record for the most by an Oriole in his debut. Coincidentally, both pitchers wore No. 53.

"This is something I'm always going to remember," Parrish said. "I did well. I'm excited by the way I pitched. I felt good going into the game. I spent a couple nights just thinking about it and how I was going to act and feel. The main thing was I wanted to go out there and keep us in the game."

It's uncertain when he'll get another opportunity since the Orioles are off Thursday. "I wouldn't rule him out, but I don't want to step out on that road yet. We've got some time to discuss it and try to make the right decision," said manager Mike Hargrove.

"I thought he threw exceptionally well. It was exciting. It was nice to see. I was concerned that John would overthrow and never get himself under control, but that wasn't the case. Our minor-league people have done real well with this kid."

Parrish became the first left-hander to start for the Orioles since Doug Johns on Oct. 2. He was called up from Triple-A Rochester on Wednesday and assigned to the bullpen after the Orioles released Darren Holmes. When a rainout forced his club to play a doubleheader on Thursday and disrupted the rotation, manager Mike Hargrove decided to give Parrish last night's assignment.

Hargrove had pitching coach Sammy Ellis pass along the news and made sure not to overload Parrish with too much information about the Yankees.

"I tried to keep my distance," Hargrove said. "I didn't want to make him any more nervous."

Parrish didn't look like a 22-year-old with the jitters. He twice shook off catcher Charles Johnson before one pitch, and reacted to an error by Ivanon Coffie that allowed the Yankees' fourth run to score by retiring 11 in a row.

"Parrish was good," said Yankees manager Joe Torre. "The only thing he lacked was total command. His stuff was good. He just needs a little polish."

With his family well-represented after making the drive from Lancaster, Pa., Parrish kicked off his debut in grand fashion. He caught Chuck Knoblauch looking at a fastball that grazed the inside corner, then got Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams to swing through curveballs. Williams was dispatched in three pitches.

Parrish took a deep breath as he crossed the first base line on his way to the dugout, puffing his cheeks as he exhaled. He soon would learn how fickle the game can be, and how quickly it can turn. The Yankees scored once in the second and three times in the third, punishing him each time he left pitches up in the strike zone.

Given a 1-0 lead, he lost it in the second inning after only two pitches. Glenallen Hill, in his first at-bat with the Yankees, jacked a 394-foot homer to left to tie the score, with B. J. Surhoff turning to watch without giving chase.

Parrish's next offering, a curveball, sailed over Johnson's head to bring hoots from the large contingent of Yankees fans. But if Parrish was rattled by Hill's blast, he quickly regained his composure. He struck out Jorge Posada on a high fastball and got the next two hitters to fly out, though David Justice sent Albert Belle to the warning track in right.

Parrish was facing a slightly watered-down Yankees lineup. Missing were right fielder Paul O'Neill and first baseman Tino Martinez, left-handed hitters who were given an opportunity to rest against the left-hander. Hill was put in the cleanup spot. Thompson and Clay Bellinger filled out the bottom of the order.

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