MINNEAPOLIS, JUNE 30 -- With Baltimore Orioles General Manager Roland Hemond suspecting pitcher Ben McDonald's continuing struggle with blisters at Class AAA Rochester may have something to do with the height of the seams on International League baseballs, the Orioles tonight decided to try an experiment.
While the Red Wings were playing the Buffalo Bisons in Buffalo, McDonald was scheduled to pitch a simulated game in the bullpen, using some of the dozen American League baseballs Hemond shipped to the Red Wings this week.
Hemond said he shipped the AL balls after conducting a blind touch test in which eight members of the Orioles' front office, including two secretaries, were able to identify the IL ball by its seams. The AL ball is manufactured by Rawlings, the IL ball by Wilson.
In any case, McDonald was scheduled to pitch in the bullpen while Buffalo batted, then rest while Rochester batted.
Hemond said McDonald's problem might be a result of a lack of callousing on McDonald's fingertips. McDonald was sidelined several weeks by a strained muscle in his side he sustained in spring training. But Hemond discovered Toronto prospects Al Leiter (a chronic blister sufferer) and Mauro Gozzo and Braves pitcher Steve Avery -- all hard throwers like McDonald -- had blister problems while pitching in the IL. So did Orioles farmhand Jose Bautista.
Randy Mobley, commissioner of the Triple A Alliance and president of the American Association, said Friday this was the first he had heard of pitchers having problems because of the seams on the Wilson balls, which he said the IL has been using for three seasons.
But he said the issue would be looked into "now that some people are concerned about it."
Toronto player personnel administrator Bob Nelson also said he had been unaware of any problem with the baseballs, "but now I'm going to look into it."
Orioles Manager Frank Robinson said tonight he was very happy with the way Curt Schilling performed during a 2 1/3-inning stint Friday night that resulted in his first major league save. And it wasn't just that Schilling allowed only one hit and struck out four.
"His poise and command were much better than I'd seen," Robinson said. "He was really in control."
It was a good thing too.
Robinson said regular set-up man Mark Williamson was available, but was feeling "under the weather." Williamson has been battling flu symptoms all week. Brian Holton also is "fluish," according to trainer Jamie Reed, who said Kevin Hickey had been feeling poorly but was better today.
Stopper Gregg Olson has been unaffected. "They've been told to breathe on each other -- not on the Otter," Reed joked. "We're going to get him an oxygen mask."
Making Schilling's performance that much more impressive was his day prior to arriving at the Metrodome. He said he was told at noon he was catching a 12:40 plane out of Rochester.
He arrived in Minneapolis in good shape, but the same could not be said for his suitcase. "It looked like they had stored it in the engine of the plane," said Schilling, whose belongings were left intact.
Hitting the Showers
Twins pitcher Allan Anderson has a 2-11 record and 5.71 earned run average, but he also has a sense of humor. When he was replaced in the seventh inning Friday night, he placed his glove on the top step of the dugout. Moments later, it received a beer shower.
"It was an accident," Anderson told the (Minneapolis) Star-Tribune. "And at least it was light beer, so my glove won't be heavy next time out."