Birds have to be selective in filling pitching void


John Oates is running out of patience.

The Orioles manager knows his club's primary need is for starting pitching, and he's getting tired of waiting for it.

It was suggested help will arrive with farmhands Mike Mussina and Arthur Rhodes, possibly next year.

"I don't know if we can wait that long," Oates said after the Orioles' 4-3 loss to Oakland at Memorial Stadium yesterday. "We've got a lot of games [65] left this year."

Does Oates want a lefthander or a righthander -- or both?

"I don't care," he said. "If they can get people out throwing with their feet, I'll take them."

Oates was not pointing the finger at Ben McDonald, yesterday's starter and loser. Said the skipper:

"Take away two pitches [Jose Canseco's three-run homer and Rickey Henderson's solo shot] and Ben's a winner. Our other starters have had enough chances by now that we know what they can and cannot do."

Those understandably impatient fans who insist the Orioles go out and spend some of the millions they're raking in on much-needed free-agent talent have only half the answer. Beyond the actual spending, there is a need to spend wisely.

The Red Sox spent a fortune for Matt Young, Jack Clark and Danny Darwin and look where it got them. They're dead in the water before July is out.

The test for the Orioles' management will be to get the right players. The O's braintrust has not shown itself capable of that, as evidenced by the club's position in the standings and the many ex-Orioles starring elsewhere.

* In all the time I've watched Orioles baseball at the stadium I've never felt worse for a player than I felt Friday night for Dave Johnson. Returned from Rochester that very day after a two-month rehab absence, Johnson came in in the fifth inning with the bases loaded and the score tied at 3. He struck out Mark McGwire impressively, then gave up a grand slam to Ernest Riles and solo homers the next inning to Canseco and Harold Baines.

"You can't let it get you down," Johnson says. "You just have to go out there the next time and do a good job. Sure, I came in in a tough spot, but that's my job."

What hurts so much is that Dave is such a great guy, the local boy who finally made his hometown club at the age of 29. Ask anyone who has attended one of Johnson's personal appearances and they'll tell you they don't make 'em any better than this guy. If you don't pull for Dave Johnson you won't pull for anybody.

* One thing no TV watcher likes is the ex-jock color man who won't criticize anybody. That's why I like Paul McGuire -- and no doubt one of the reasons NBC keeps the ex-Bill. He certainly isn't kept for his looks or his voice.

Yesterday in the Bills-Eagles telecast from England, Keith Byars was unable to handle a pass from Randall Cunningham. Marv Albert pointed out that the pass was "a little off."

But McGuire told it like it was. Said he: "Byars just dropped the ball. It should have been a touchdown." Attaboy, Paul.

* WCBM's Bruce Main has an interesting name for the new ballpark at Camden Yards. He calls it "Crammed In Yards."

* What an athlete Ben McDonald is! He certainly demonstrated that yesterday when Oakland's Mike Gallego knocked his glove off with a line drive to the mound, only to have the bare-handed McDonald scramble to the loose ball and throw out Gallego at first. Not bad agility for a 6-foot-7, 212-pound alligator wrestler.

"Gallego hit two shots right at me," Ben said afterward. "I think he was trying to kill me."

* I'm still not sure they have their priorities right at the University of Maryland. Byrd Stadium is undergoing a $15 million refurbishing, a good chunk of which is going to a new press box and Welcome Center.

I didn't see anything wrong with the old press box, but I did see a major flaw in the stadium: it's too small (41,000). Clemson holds 80,000, Penn State 93,600. Maryland recruits against both those schools.

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