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TONIGHT: Ballard to try to dispel myth that Fenway gobbles up lefties


In Al Jackson's estimation, the long-held belief that Fenway Park is ruinous to lefthanded pitchers is a myth.

"I've seen lefthanders be successful there," the Orioles' pitching coach said. "They're usually guys who throw sinkerballs and make the batters hit ground balls."

Jeff Ballard is one of those. The Orioles lefthander, 1-1 lifetime in Fenway, will oppose Red Sox lefty Matt Young tonight (7:35, Ch. 2) in the opener of a four-game series in Boston.

"I'm supposed to be a ground ball pitcher, and that's what I'll try to do," Ballard said. "I've had my bumps and bruises there. It seems I've either been good or terrible.

"It's a fun park. A little rundown in spots, like the locker rooms, but still a neat place. It has nostalgia, electricity in the air and good fans."

Fenway can be hard on lefthanders because of the chummy leftfield wall, only 315 feet down the line. The 37-foot-high wall called the Green Monster seems ominously close.

Some lefties have prospered in Fenway. Bruce Hurst was 56-33 for the Red Sox from 1980-88. Lefty Grove won 20 straight there from 1938-41. Long before that Babe Ruth prospered in Fenway when it was still in its infancy, compiling a 49-20 record from 1914-19 before moving on to the Yankees.

It is a little known fact, hidden on page 97 of the Boston media guide, that Grove, Ruth, Roger Moret and Mel Parnell -- Red Sox pitchers all -- won at least 70 percent of their decisions in Fenway.

After the Ballard-Young encounter, it'll be Jose Mesa vs. Dana Kiecker tomorrow night, Bob Milacki vs. Danny Darwin Saturday and Roy Smith vs. Roger Clemens Sunday.

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