DETROIT -- The rookie was hurting. Three straight hits against Orioles right-hander Jimmy Haynes to start last night's game, including a one-hop smash off his knee, and now extra-large Cecil Fielder, the last guy to hit 50 homers in one season, was walking to the plate.
A situation made for nerves. But strangely, Haynes said later, he felt fine, quite comfortable. Catcher Chris Hoiles called for a first-pitch curveball. Haynes obliged him, with a breaking pitch so sharp that Fielder's front knee buckled, and after plate umpire Gary Cederstrom called a strike, Fielder shook his head in disbelief.
Haynes would strike out Fielder on another curve, then end the inning by striking out Lou Whitaker on a high fastball and getting Tony Clark to pop out.
Haynes was on his way to one of the best performances by a first-year Orioles pitcher since before Cal Ripken's streak became The Streak. Haynes struck out 11 and allowed just five hits and two runs over 7 1/3 innings, and beat the Tigers, 6-2, for his first major-league victory.
Haynes' strikeouts were the most by an Orioles rookie in the regular season since Mike Boddicker whiffed 12 at Tiger Stadium on Sept. 21, 1983 (Boddicker struck out 14 in the AL playoffs that year). Only three Detroit hitters reached base after those first three reached in the first inning.
"That guy had great stuff," said Tigers manager Sparky Anderson. "A real curveball, right over the top."
Orioles manager Phil Regan said: "He was cool and calm the whole way. Very poised."
The Orioles' disappointing '95 season is two weeks away from completion, and already the club has something to mull over this win[See Orioles, 8C] ter: Is Haynes ready to join the rotation next year?
In April, that seemed impossible. Haynes appeared very raw to ** Regan in the shortened spring training. Above-average stuff, but with a lack of finesse, the ability to pitch to hitters. Based on his very brief exposure to the young pitcher, Regan thought Haynes wouldn't be ready for the majors for a long time.
Haynes started slowly in Triple-A this year, and he says now that there were times he lost his composure. Early in the season, Haynes said, he sat down and thought about what he needed to do to get better, what flaws he needed to eliminate.
Mental magic. Haynes began to pitch with subtlety in June, the reports from Rochester manager Marv Foley and pitching coach Claude Osteen indicating that the thrower was developing into a pitcher. Haynes began changing speeds, started thinking about what he needed to do to set up hitters.
Osteen sent Haynes to the big leagues a week ago with this recommendation: He's ready to pitch in the big leagues. Right now. He's ready to stay in the big leagues.
Haynes pitched well in his major-league debut against the Red Sox last week, pitching on three days' rest, and Regan said over the weekend he was curious to see what Haynes would do after four days off.
At first, against the Tigers, Haynes did nothing. The Tigers whacked his high fastballs, Chad Curtis smashing a line single, Bobby Higginson ricocheting a double off Haynes' right leg, Travis Fryman singling.
In trouble, Haynes decided to start mixing in his curveballs, both speeds -- a hard curve and slow curve that have a difference of about 5 mph. "I think maybe that ball off my leg kind of woke me up," Haynes said.
The Tigers, starting with Fielder, were devastated, and the use of his breaking ball helped set up the Detroit hitters for his fastballs and changeups.
That first curve to Fielder shocked Haynes.
"It broke pretty good," Haynes said. "It was pretty nasty."
Hoiles said: "He had a pretty good curve going."
Haynes struck out at least one hitter an inning. He got Travis Fryman twice, Lou Whitaker twice.
"I tell you what, this is not an easy ballpark to pitch in . . . and he came in here and threw a pretty good game," Regan said.
The Orioles addressed Haynes' run support belatedly, jump-started by Bobby Bonilla. Again.
The recently repositioned third baseman crushed a two-run homer in the sixth inning last night, giving the Orioles a 2-1 advantage; seven of his nine AL homers this year have tied the score or given the Orioles a lead. Bonilla then singled home a run in the middle of the Orioles' four-run eighth.
In eight games since shifting to third, Bonilla has 14 hits in 32 at-bats (.438), with three homers and 12 RBIs.
Haynes has allowed eight hits in his first 14 1/3 innings, striking out 15 and walking six, and the question the Orioles will ask now and all winter is, is he really ready?
Two big-league starts and Haynes has given them something to think about. "It's great," he said. "It's what I hoped for when I got here. Hopefully, I can keep it up. Hopefully, I can keep doing what I'm doing now."
Opponent: Detroit Tigers
Site: Tiger Stadium, Detroit
Time: 1:15 p.m.
TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Orioles' Rick Krivda (2-5, 3.71) vs. Tigers' Sean Bergman (7-9, 4.98)