The Baltimore Orioles pitching staff used to have a distinctly local flavor, with right-hander Dave Johnson in the starting rotation and left-hander Mike Linskey waiting in the wings.
But yesterday, both hometown players went the way of the waiver list. Johnson was placed on waivers for the purpose of giving him his unconditional release, and Linskey was claimed off waivers by the San Diego Padres.
Johnson was the club's winningest pitcher two seasons ago. He won 13 games in 1990, but came back to post the highest ERA (7.07) and opposing batting average (.349) of any American League pitcher with 50 or more innings. So the news, which came on the last day for clubs to move minor-league players onto the 40-man roster, did not come as a big surprise.
"Not really," Johnson said. "Obviously, I was hoping to make it to spring training and get an opportunity to make the ballclub and redeem myself. But I knew this was the last day to set the roster, so there was a possibility something might happen. It's just another page in the book, and I'll have to go on."
The Orioles did not cut Johnson loose entirely. He'll work with the club's community relations staff through the off-season and will be offered a non-roster invitation to spring training if he cannot get a contract elsewhere.
"We were just in a situation where we needed to get our roster down and he did not have the type of year he had the year before," said general manager Roland Hemond. "If things don't work out for him, we'll be happy to invite him to major-league camp."
Still, it was another disappointment in a discouraging year for the kid from Middle River. He had hoped to be the club's 1991 Opening Day starter after his 13-9 performance the year before, but that honor went to left-hander Jeff Ballard, who had come back from a horrible 1990 season to pitch well in spring training.
Then there was a rocky start (1-3, 9.23 ERA in his first eight games) and a groin injury that forced him onto the disabled list for two months. He came back to finish unimpressively, closing the season with a 4-8 record.
"I was hoping to get an opportunity like Jeff got after he had a bad year," he said. "[Bob] Milacki also had an off year, but he was able to come back and redeem himself. That's what I was hoping for, but I don't have any bitter feelings. The Orioles gave me the opportunity of a lifetime. They gave me a chance when nobody else would."
The Orioles have elevated seven minor league prospects to the 40-man roster since the end of the regular season -- the latest catcher Cesar Devares, who was added yesterday. The moves protect those players during drafts in December.
Linskey, also born and raised in the Baltimore area, was in the process of being removed from the roster when the Padres claimed him off the waiver list. The Orioles were attempting to outright him to their Class AAA Rochester Red Wings roster after a disappointing minor-league season split between the Red Wings and the Class AA Hagerstown Suns.
It is no coincidence that the Padres were the team that claimed Linskey. The club's assistant general manager, John Barr, was the Orioles' scouting director before he went to San Diego to join GM Joe McIlvaine in a restructured Padres front office.
"Any time you ask waivers to outright someone, you take the chance of losing that player," Hemond said. "John probably remembered him from the previous year. Mike had a much better year in 1990."
Linskey was the sixth Baltimore-born pitcher to play for the Orioles. He starred for four years at Loyola High School and played at James Madison University, before the Orioles selected him in the ninth round of the June 1988 draft.
NOTES: Bobby Miscik has been named manager for the Class A Frederick Keys. Miscik, who was third-base coach for the Keys during the 1990 season, replaces Wally Moon, who recently was named the Orioles' minor-league hitting instructor.