Johnny Oates, as detail-oriented as major-league managers come, had to admit he was stumped this time.
He knew the identity of his starting pitcher, Scott Klingenbeck. He just didn't have a clue as to his appearance. Oates saw two unfamiliar, young faces in the Orioles' clubhouse yesterday morning and figured he had found his man. He figured wrong.
"I started to go up to them and say, 'Which one of you is Scott?' Then I saw them picking up laundry," Oates said. "Scott hadn't arrived yet."
He arrived in the major leagues yesterday, and no one with the Orioles ever will mistake a clubhouse attendant for him again.
Klingenbeck, 23, shook off a rough start, didn't allow a run in his last four innings and picked up the victory as the Orioles stopped a three-game losing streak with an 11-5 win over the Detroit Tigers.
"I wouldn't have known him if he came up to me and slapped me in the face," said Ben McDonald, the man Klingenbeck replaced in the rotation.
Exhibiting a big-league changeup, a fastball with good movement, and a pair of breaking balls, Klingenbeck allowed four runs (three earned) on six hits and four walks in seven innings. He retired 12 of the final 15 batters he faced before giving way to Alan Mills, who struck out five and allowed one run in two innings.
Klingenbeck, a fifth-round draft choice in 1992, appeared as awed before and after the game as he was poised during it.
Eight months removed from Single-A and hours removed from Double-A Bowie, the former Ohio State Buckeye counted Cecil Fielder among his five strikeout victims.
"I've always dreamed of striking out Cecil Fielder, but I figured he would be retired by the time I got here," said Klingenbeck, a native of Cincinnati. "This is my ESPN dream thing or whatever that is."
DTC He lived his SportsCenter Fantasy already, so even if he returns to the minors before making another start, a strong possibility, Klingenbeck will have plenty to think about until he returns.
With a runner in scoring position and two outs in the seventh, Klingenbeck fell behind Fielder 3-1, then struck him out on a pair of changeups Fielder swung through for his final out of the day.
It wasn't lost on Klingenbeck, the least recognizable Oriole, that he received his biggest boost from the most recognizable Oriole. Shortstop Cal Ripken went 3-for-5, drove in four runs, scored two runs, and hit his 301st career home run.
"It's like standing next to God," Klingenbeck said of Ripken.
Ripken, whose consecutive-games streak started when Klingenbeck was 11, received an error on a pop-up he missed, but it was another Ripken play that reminded Klingenbeck he was in the big leagues.
With two outs in the second inning, Detroit shortstop Chris Gomez lashed a hard grounder to the hole. Ripken backhanded it and gunned a throw to first in time for the final out.
"I've never seen that, a guy going in the hole that fluidly," Klingenbeck said.
When he took the mound again, Klingenbeck had a 4-1 lead, which vanished when the Tigers batted around in the third.
Ripken singled in a run in the third to break the 4-4 tie and hit his fourth home run, a three-run drive over the left-field fence in the fourth, to break the game open.
Not only was Klingenbeck fortunate to have Ripken on his side, but he also was lucky to have an absent-minded Junior Felix on the other side.
Thinking Mike Devereaux's fly ball to right was the third out of the inning, Felix, a player who once was traded for Devon White, started running in with it. He looked at the ball long enough to count the stitches, heard center fielder Danny Bautista yelling at him, and threw to second base. By that time, Jack Voigt had slid safely into the bag, opening up first base, which was where Detroit manager Sparky Anderson decided to put Rafael Palmeiro.
Last season, Palmeiro was walked intentionally 22 times, including 13 times with Juan Gonzalez hitting behind him. This season, Palmeiro has had Harold Baines hitting behind him against right-handers, Ripken against left-handers.
Yesterday was the first time Palmeiro has been walked intentionally and the first time a manager had ordered an intentional walk in front of Ripken, who twice last season homered after intentional walks.
"You will hear some guys say they are offended by that," Ripken said. "I'm not offended. It doesn't make me mad or anything. It might make me more determined sometimes, but it doesn't make me mad. I would have made the same decision. I wouldn't have wanted to face Rafael Palmeiro in that situation. He's one of the best hitters in the league."
And Ripken, hitting .451 with runners in scoring position, has been one of the best clutch hitters in the league. Palmeiro (2-for-4, three runs, one RBI) and Leo Gomez (2-for-4, one run, one RBI) pitched in with big contributions as well.
Klingenbeck needed the support to overcome a shaky beginning.
Fielder led off the second with a double to center, took third on Kirk Gibson's grounder to first and scored on Felix's sacrifice fly to left.
In the Tigers' three-run third, Klingenbeck allowed a two-run home run to Whitaker and hit Felix with a pitch with the bases loaded to force in a run. The inning was prolonged by Ripken's third error, a pop-up he took his eye off for a second and never found in the sun.
"I knew something crazy was going to happen because I've never seen Cal make an error," Klingenbeck said. "That showed me everyone is human."
Klingenbeck wasn't superhuman yesterday. The Orioles didn't need him to be. They only needed a win to move within 5 1/2 games of first place and within three games of second place in the American League East. They needed some rest for the bullpen to prepare for this weekend's series against the hard-hitting White Sox.
In those respects, Klingenbeck went 2-for-2, and in a sense made a perfect debut.
Opponent: Chicago White Sox
Site: Oriole Park at Camden Yards
TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: White Sox's Jason Bere (6-1, 3.34) vs. Orioles' Sid Fernandez (3-2, 4.19)
Tickets: Scattered singles remain, not including 183 bleacher and 275 standing-room tickets that go on sale when the gates open.