Eshelman fulfills goal - sort of


Vaughn Eshelman visited Camden Yards three days after it opened in 1992 and just a few days after having elbow surgery.

He sat out the entire 1992 season and told his wife, Julie, that he would never go back to Camden Yards, not unless he could play there.

Eshelman is back. The left-hander starts today for the Boston Red Sox, who selected him from the Orioles on Dec. 5 in the Rule V draft.

He made good on his promise, but with the wrong team.

"I didn't think it would be on the visiting side," Eshelman said.

The Orioles failed to protect Eshelman on the 40-man roster -- not because of his elbow surgery, but because he had trouble getting out left-handed hitters.

They told Eshelman all season that he would not be protected. Eshelman understood why, so he played winter ball in Venezuela to work on the problem.

In Venezuela, Eshelman found sound advice from manager Grady Little. Little, who also manages the Atlanta Braves' Triple-A Richmond farm club, told Eshelman not to overthrow.

"He told me not to try so hard," Eshelman said. "Once I started that, it was less stressful on my arm."

Eshelman also started getting left-handers out. After the first two left-handers got hits off Eshelman in Venezuela, he didn't give up any more.

Red Sox pitching coach John Cumberland preaches a similar philosophy to Eshelman. Cumberland said Eshelman's success against left-handers depends on his ability to throw his breaking ball for strikes, but not overthrowing is equally important.

"Hard is not better. Slower is better," Cumberland said. "He's a very coachable young man."

The Red Sox -- who are forced to keep Eshelman on the team all season under the stipulations of the Rule V draft -- envisioned Eshelman as a reliever, maybe the 11th or 12th pitcher. But injuries to starters Roger Clemens and Aaron Sele forced Eshelman into the rotation.

He started off with three straight victories, went on the disabled list for four starts with tendinitis in his shoulder, then lost his next start. But Cumberland said Eshelman (3-1, 5.20 ERA) is throwing hard now as he was in the beginning of the year.

Eshelman's start prompted a lot of second-guessing of Orioles officials for not protecting him. But Eshelman was part of a talented group of starters at Double-A Bowie that included last night's starter, Scott Klingenbeck, Rick Forney, Rick Krivda, Jimmy Haynes and Brian Sackinsky.

Eshelman was the odd man out.

Klingenbeck, who got no decision last night, made it the majors first with a spot start last June. Haynes, Krivda and Sackinsky are at Triple-A Rochester. Forney, whom Eshelman left tickets for Thursday, is still at Bowie.

As the second Bowie pitcher to make the majors, Eshelman has lived up to his promise. Now he has a new one.

"I think all five of us sooner or later were going to get there," Eshelman said. "It's not a matter of who's going to get there first, it's who stays there."

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