Terry Clark and Mark Lee, promoted to the big leagues yesterday by the Orioles, are both thirtysomething relievers who have spent most of their careers in the minor leagues. They are not prospects with extraordinary potential.
But each does something that manager Phil Regan really wants from his relievers right now. They throw strikes.
Clark, who will be the Orioles' right-handed setup man, walked two in 10 innings for Triple-A Rochester this year, and left-hander Lee, who will be a middle reliever, walked just five in 28 2/3 innings.
Those are much better control numbers than those posted by the two relievers they are replacing. Armando Benitez walked 19 in 20 2/3 innings, and Brad Pennington had 11 walks in 6 2/3 innings.
Regan noted that the Orioles have been getting killed in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings, often the bridge between the starters and closer Doug Jones. Eighty-five of the 193 runs allowed by the Orioles have been scored in the sixth, seventh and eighth, compared with 95 runs in the first five innings.
"We need to find a way to get to our closer," said Regan.
Pitching coach Mike Flanagan said: "You can tolerate a guy not having his good stuff on a given day and getting hit around. But when you don't give the fielders behind you a chance, that's when the frustration starts to set in."
Clark, 34, and Lee, 30, were called and told they were going to the big leagues at midnight Wednesday. Clark was at home with his wife watching a movie, "The Professional." ("Don't watch it," he said. "It's not very good.") He immediately started getting his stuff together, and was in bed by 3 a.m. for a 5:15 wake-up call. He and Lee flew from Rochester, N.Y., to Baltimore yesterday morning, and Clark pitched the ninth inning of yesterday's game.
Regan helped to resurrect Clark's career. A couple of years ago, after Clark had reconstructive elbow surgery, he landed a winter ball job pitching for Regan in Venezuela.
When he became a free agent prior to the 1994 season, he wanted to sign with Cleveland, where Regan was the pitching coach. But Clark then discovered his agent had signed a contract for him with the Atlanta Braves.
Clark began the season with the Braves, but when rosters were reduced from 28 to 25, they asked him to go to the minors. As is his right by rule, he refused the assignment and became a free agent. His agent contacted Roland Hemond, and Clark signed with the Orioles May 16.
Lee was drafted by Detroit in 1985, and moved from the Tigers to Kansas City to Milwaukee -- in 1991, he pitched in 62 games with the Brewers, compiling a 3.86 ERA -- to Texas to the Cubs, pitching in a total of 77 major-league games.
He signed with the Orioles last fall, and was among the minor-leaguers that Regan and Flanagan worked with for about six weeks this spring.
Trade talk with Twins
The Orioles are talking to the Minnesota Twins about ZTC acquiring pitcher Scott Erickson or pitcher Kevin Tapani, league sources confirmed yesterday.
However, in the initial talks between the two sides, the Twins asked the Orioles for top prospects in return (possibly outfielder Alex Ochoa or pitcher Rocky Coppinger). The Orioles would like to get one more veteran starter for their rotation. Erickson, the more likely candidate, is to make about $1.8 million this year, which makes him financially viable.
Erickson is generally regarded as one of the top pitching talents in the league and once threw a no-hitter, but he has underachieved, to date. He throws a sinking fastball that induces lots of grounders -- and on the artificial surface of the Metrodome, that's not always a good thing.