Orioles Still Can't Get Going
By Richard Justice
Today, they made heroes of Rich Yett, who got his ninth career victory, and Dan Schatzeder, who got his seventh career save. Before they were finished, they also extended blessings to outfielder Carmen Castillo, who got his first three hits of 1988, and rookie shortstop Jay Bell, who got his fourth and fifth RBI this season. Those are strange names, but these are strange days for the Orioles, who lost again, this time 6-3 to the Cleveland Indians in front of 19,560.
If you're counting, that's five straight defeats for the winless Orioles and matches their second-worst start ever. They also started the 1978 season 0-5 and are a game away from tying the 1955 club record of 0-6.
"Every team in the majors is going to lose five games in a row at some point," reliever Tom Niedenfuer said. "Ours are just coming at the beginning."
But Saturday's defeat was bad enough that General Manager Roland Hemond flew into town to watch Sunday's loss and assure everyone that Manager Cal Ripken's final paycheck is not being typed up. However, the loss Saturday was bad enough to get the Orioles started on their annual roster shuffle.
A year ago, they went through 41 players on their way to a 67-95 sixth-place finish, and today Hemond announced he'd signed outfielder Tito Landrum, who was released by the Los Angeles Dodgers last week.
The St. Louis Cardinals loaned Landrum to the Orioles for the 1983 pennant race, and he hit one of the most dramatic home runs in club history, off Chicago's Britt Burns in the 10th inning of Game 4 of the AL playoffs.
He had been acquired for Floyd Rayford that summer, and the next spring was sent back to the Cardinals, again in exchange for Rayford.
He's 33, but the Orioles say he remains a good outfielder and will help fill the shortage of right-handed hitters. He'll take batting practice Monday in Baltimore and be in uniform for Tuesday's game against the Kansas City Royals.
"No question we've been short of right-handed bats," Ripken said, "and without Ken Gerhart it's been doubly tough."
Hemond said the Orioles had mistakenly put Gerhart on the 21-day disabled list -- and not the 15-day list as previously announced. That means that Gerhart (pulled thigh), who was supposed to be eligible to play today, won't be available until next Saturday and will be sent to Class AA Charlotte on a rehabilitation assignment.
Someday -- probably next weekend -- Gerhart will become the Orioles' starting center fielder, which he was supposed to be since the start of spring training. But today, facing road trips to Columbus and Chattanooga, he wasn't happy about the mistake.
"I'm at least 90 percent ready," he said, "and I was ready to play today. They said it was a mistake in the office. I'm not going to get mad because that wouldn't do any good, but I didn't want to go on the disabled list to begin with."
Landrum's arrival Tuesday will mean that someone will have to go, and the betting is that it'll be Jim Traber, who is a left-handed hitter caught in a tough numbers game. It also means someone else -- probably rookie Wade Rowdon -- will have to go next weekend when Gerhart returns.
Hemond was in town just long enough to watch part of a game the Orioles had been anxiously awaiting -- the return of left-hander Scott McGregor from a 2-7 season and a winter of attempting to rehabilitate a rotator-cuff injury.
They'd hoped for better. McGregor allowed seven hits and four earned runs in 3 2/3 innings and helped quickly dig the Orioles a 5-0 hole. He hadn't pitched in six days and a combination of an extra two days and a 50-degree afternoon may have hurt him.
Whatever the reason, he wasn't sharp, throwing 32 of his 68 pitches for balls. The Indians got a run off him in the second when Joe Carter (two hits, two runs) scored on Cory Snyder's sacrifice fly to shallow center.
He then opened the fourth by walking Pat Tabler and allowing a single to Carter. He struck out Brook Jacoby and got Snyder on a foul pop, but Castillo's RBI double and Bell's two-run triple finished him (Bell came home on shortstop Cal Ripken Jr.'s throwing error).
"It was nice to get back out there," McGregor said, "but I made two real bad pitches, especially the one to Castillo. I was trying to hold my emotions down and thought I did a pretty good job at it. My curveball finally came around in the fourth, but I didn't stay long enough to enjoy it. It's bad. We've got to win one of these games. The last four years we've lost so much, and it's no fun. We've got to get that first one, and then we can rattle off four or five in a row."
The Indians scored their sixth run off Dave Schmidt in the sixth, and that was enough, although the Orioles finally put some hits together and scored more runs (three) than they had in their previous four games (two). They entered the game with 21 hits in four games, but had nine today. Unfortunately, they also left 10 runners on base, six of them in scoring position.
Outfielder Joe Orsulak (.400) had three hits, and second baseman Bill Ripken (.300) had two hits and three RBI, but it wasn't enough. They raised their team batting average from .171 to .188, but continue to hit on a deadly trifecta -- ranked last in the AL in pitching, hitting and fielding.
"You hope to get off to a better start, but you have to remember it's early," Hemond said. "We've got to start hitting, and we're too good a hitting team not to. They'll probably all bust loose at once."
© Copyright 1988 The Washington Post Company