Alan Mills always has been a slow starter.
But this week the hitters have not even given him a chance to break a sweat. Mills has been hammered in all five of his outings this season and hammered early.
Like on the first pitch.
He has given up a two-run double and a home run and hit a batter, all on the first pitch.
Yesterday it took him two.
Joe Oliver launched an 0-1 fastball into the left-field stands, an eighth-inning, bases-empty homer that topped off the Brewers' 7-0 victory that spoiled the Orioles' home opener.
And further ruined what for Mills has been a terrible week.
In 3 2/3 innings, he has allowed nine hits, eight runs and two walks. His ERA reads like a respectable scoring average for an NBA player: 19.64.
Mills always has started slowly. In the past five Aprils, he has a 4.95 ERA. Thus, he is neither down nor out but taking his lack of early success in stride.
"With the amount of games we play, I know it's going to get better," said Mills, wearing a green and blue Tuskegee sweat shirt and sunglasses atop his head. "I can't take it to the next day."
New Orioles manager Phil Regan won't let him.
Regan said he has a solution to Mills' slow starts -- sending him to the mound as much as possible. Mills has appeared in five of the team's six games. The more he pitches, Regan said, the better Mills will get.
"All he needs is some more innings, and he'll be all right," said Regan, who originally planned to have Mills work out during the team's day off today but pitched him for two innings in yesterday's blowout instead.
Regan said no one was hurt more by the abbreviated spring training than Mills, who lives in Lakeland, Fla., and could not work out with the team's minor-leaguers in St. Petersburg. When the strike was settled and Mills finally got to camp, Regan taught him a third pitch, a sinker. Mills is learning to master it.
Regan said he needs to focus on keeping the sinker down in the strike zone.
Especially on the first or second pitch.
Last year Mills baffled hitters, holding them to a .143 average on the initial offering.
Not this year. He gave up a two-run double to Jose Lind on Wednesday in Kansas City, hit David McCarty on Thursday in Minnesota and gave up a homer to Jerald Clark on the first pitch in the seventh inning of Friday's game.
Yesterday Mills settled down after giving up the bases-empty homer to Oliver. He struck out Matt Mieske on four pitches, and Jose Valentin popped out to first base to end the eighth inning.
Regan kept Mills in for the ninth, and the right-hander cruised through the top of the Brewers' order. Pat Listach grounded to short, Darryl Hamilton walked, Kevin Seitzer lined to short and cleanup man Greg Vaughn struck out.
Other than the homer, Mills was fairly pleased with his outing but not with his sputtering start.
"It bothers anybody in any profession when you're not doing your job to your best ability," Mills said. "But after that home run, I was getting everybody out."
Regan is not that worried, either. Mills' fastball recently registered 94 mph on the radar gun. The new manager cannot wait to use Mills and Armando Benitez as alternating, flame-throwing setup men.
As soon as Mills starts to come around.
"I'm not really concerned about him," Regan said. "The only thing I'm concerned about is when they're not very good pitches."
Orioles reliever Alan Mills has been hit immediately in his five outings. How he has fared against the first hitter he has faced:
Date ......... Hitter, team ...... Result
April 26 ....... Jose Lind, ...... Double
........ ....... Kansas City
April 27 ....... David McCarty, .. Hit by
....... ........ Minnesota ....... pitch
April 28 ....... Kurby Puckett, .. Single
........ ....... Minnesota
April 29 ....... Scott Leuis, .... Walk
........ ....... Minnesota
Yesterday ...... Joe Oliver, ..... Home run
......... ...... Milwaukee