Driskill savors '02 as Aug. 30 looms


Strike would be `bummer,' but he's prepared to walk

August 19, 2002|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

It took 10 professional seasons and a few jarring disappointments for Travis Driskill to reach the majors and earn a spot in a rotation. The last thing he wants to do is go on strike. Not after he needed so much time and patience to reach this level and fulfill a dream.

But that's exactly what Driskill is prepared to do.

Tonight's starter as the Orioles open a four-game series against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Driskill said he stands behind the players' union and supports a work stoppage if an agreement with owners can't be reached by Aug. 30.

"It would be a bummer, I'd still take everything positive out of the season," said Driskill, 31, who ranks second on the staff with eight victories. "It wouldn't diminish it by any means, but it would definitely be a bummer."

Driskill was a Single-A pitcher in the Cleveland Indians' system during the last strike in 1994, which led to the cancellation of the World Series and a late start to the next season.

"I had the unfortunate pleasure with the Indians in '95 of being asked to be a replacement player. I said `no' back then and I'm sticking with them now," he said. "The Indians were really good about that. They asked me once and I said `no' and they didn't hassle me. The Indians were real classy."

Jason Johnson, the Orioles' player representative, advised his teammates earlier this summer to begin watching their finances in case of a strike. Spending wisely and saving money took on greater importance.

But having lived so long on the meager wages given to minor-league players, Driskill and his family are quite comfortable with the major-league minimum of $200,000. They won't be scrambling to pay bills and put food on the table.

"Everything's been real easy for us because we're making more money than we were before," said Driskill, who has two sons, ages 6 and 2. "My house payment is cheap. We're going to come out ahead. And if I do have to go out and make money, I've got winter ball."

Souvenirs for Stephens

While a small group of players sat at the clubhouse table eating breakfast and organizing another card game, rookie pitcher John Stephens sought signatures for the dugout lineup card that commemorated his first major-league victory.

Stephens took two souvenirs from Saturday's game, including a ball that he gripped in his right hand while standing at his locker for another round of media interviews.

"I'll get a case for it and put it on a wall somewhere," he said.

Sleep didn't come easily to Stephens after returning to his hotel. He received a steady flow of phone calls and made a few of his own, including one to his parents in Australia. His mother flew back home the day before his start but listened to the game on the Internet.

Club inducts three

The Orioles' Hall of Fame grew by three yesterday with the inductions of former pitchers Hoyt Wilhelm and Dennis Martinez and longtime public address announcer Rex Barney.

Wilhelm, who couldn't attend because of an illness, threw the Orioles' first no-hitter in 1958. A knuckleball specialist who established himself as one of the game's best relievers, Wilhelm was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., in 1985.

Martinez pitched 11 seasons with the Orioles and ranks seventh in career innings (1,775 1/3 ), eighth in wins (108) and ninth in strikeouts (858). He went 108-93 with a 4.16 ERA.

Barney, a former teammate of Jackie Robinson's with the Brooklyn Dodgers, served as the Orioles' full-time PA announcer from 1974 until his death in August 1997.

Around the horn

The Tigers' 18 hits matched a season high against the Orioles. The Devil Rays also collected 18 in a June 29 game at Tropicana Field. ... Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said he expects Sidney Ponson to pitch again this season. Ponson is trying to avoid surgery to repair a small labrum tear. "There's a chance," Hargrove said. "I'd be disappointed if he doesn't."

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