Old fastball returns, taking weighty load off Fernandez's mind


TC Sid Fernandez can pitch fast and slim.

His fastball did not suffer, as he previously had claimed, because of his 40 pounds of off-season weight loss. Nor did his control. In four innings yesterday, the left-hander pitched up and down, in and out, fast and slow.

Fernandez didn't get the win, but the Orioles did, beating the Philadelphia Phillies, 8-7, in 10 innings before 24,010 fans at an exhibition game and autograph day at Camden Yards.

Harold Baines and Andy Van Slyke homered and Cal Ripken singled with the bases loaded, driving in six of the Orioles' runs.

But fit and trim Fernandez had the best day, allowing two hits and one earned run, throwing an economical 47 pitches over four innings and enjoying his first good outing of the spring.

He entered the game with a 7.20 ERA in five innings of work, but proved yesterday that he could pitch at a svelte 222 pounds.

"I didn't lose any velocity," Fernandez said. "All that stuff, I just said it because I was worried about my arm. It was not feeling so good, but it's feeling great now."

Frustrated following his last outing (five hits and two runs in three innings), Fernandez threw his glove into the dugout trash can. He then blamed his "wimpy" performance on his losing 40 pounds.

Fernandez wasn't wimpy yesterday. He proved to Phil Regan that his No. 3 starter is no slouch.

"I think he threw the ball extremely well today, extremely quick," Regan said. "He had a good breaking ball, too."

Regan never attributed the "dead arm" that Fernandez experienced in Florida to his weight loss. But the manager who chewed out a replacement umpire in his first appearance at Camden Yards yesterday can attest to the invigorating powers of a ballpark, even if it's nearly half-empty.

"I think anytime you get into a major-league ballpark with major-league fans, the adrenalin is there a little bit," Regan said. "I think he felt some adrenalin."

Fernandez needed just five pitches to get out of the first inning. Lenny Dykstra flied to center on the first pitch, Mariano Duncan grounded to Ripken and Gregg Jefferies bounced to Bret Barberie at second.

It wasn't adrenalin, Fernandez said, but piece of mind that got him off to a good start. He slowed down mechanically in order to get his pitches to speed up.

"I was just trying to throw smooth, I wasn't trying to throw too hard, I wasn't trying to overthrow," Fernandez said. "It's still spring training."

Fernandez said that pitchers need a full spring training to get through a "dead arm" like the one he felt last week. He also said his arm will not be in peak condition for another month. But he looked like he was in regular-season form yesterday, spotting his fastball and keeping the hitters off balance with slow curves.

With his good stuff, Fernandez didn't get rattled, not even when his defense failed him in the second inning.

Van Slyke got a poor jump on Dave Hollins' fly ball, which went over the new Orioles center fielder's head and into the stands for a ground-rule double. Then Leo Gomez made a weak backhanded stab on Dave Gallagher's run-scoring single down the third base line.

But 23 pitches and no more runs later, Fernandez was out of the inning.

During this abbreviated spring, Fernandez credits new pitching coach Mike Flanagan, a fellow lefty, for helping him with his mechanics.

"I was trying to stay relaxed, be smoother, stop flying open," Fernandez said. "Mike helped me a lot. We didn't throw alike, but we were similar -- left-handers, he didn't throw straight over the top, three-quarters. He has a lot to offer me, he really does."

After Harold Baines' bases-empty homer tied the score, 1-1, in the bottom of the second, Fernandez didn't offer much to the Phillies during the next two innings. He threw 10 pitches in the third and nine in the fourth, retiring the side 1-2-3 each time.

Because Gallagher got picked off second base after his run-scoring single in the second inning, Fernandez faced only one more batter (13) than the minimum.

El Sid was pitching like the dominating pitcher he used to be in the National League. Fernandez has a 15-10 lifetime record and a 3.23 ERA against the Phillies. His confidence showed.

"I've pitched against them for 10 years in the National League," Fernandez said.

He left the game with the score tied 1-1, before the bulk of the scoring. But for him the score did not matter. What mattered was Fernandez showed that he is capable of pitching fast, pitching slim and pitching pain-free.

"I wanted to make sure my arm was fine. Whatever else happened was secondary. I could care less if I gave up seven runs today," Fernandez said. "All that mattered is that my arm felt fine."


Exhibition opponent: Philadelphia Phillies

Site: ,5Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia

Time: 7:35

TV/Radio: None

Starters: Orioles' John DeSilva vs. Phillies' Tyler Green

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