Johnson fears Surhoff trying too hard Outfielder slumping in first pennant race


Manager Davey Johnson fears B. J. Surhoff's monthlong slump may be a result of him pressing in the pennant race.

Surhoff, a longtime Milwaukee Brewer playing in his first postseason chase, is hitting .274 in September, but has just three extra-base hits (two doubles and one triple) and seven RBIs. Surhoff had just seven extra-base hits since Aug. 8 before doubling in the ninth inning last night.

Surhoff is among the most intense Orioles and one of the hardest-working players, but Johnson says that could hinder Surhoff.

"He's one of these guys that when things are going a little bit bad he'll spend more time thinking about it, worrying about it, hitting off a tee and taking extra BP," Johnson said. "He's just got a great work ethic.

"Sometimes you're better off just taking a deep breath and getting back -- relaxing a little bit and letting your ability express itself. It's hard for him because he's such a grinder."

O's win Rangers coin flip

The Orioles won a coin toss with the Texas Rangers yesterday and would play host to a one-game playoff at Camden Yards should the two teams tie for the wild card.

The toss was held in the office of American League president Gene Budig. The Orioles also would play host to a one-game playoff should they tie for the wild card with the Seattle Mariners.

Johnson defends Mussina

Johnson said that criticisms of Mike Mussina not being a big-game pitcher are unfair. He said that assumption is based largely on Mussina's last two starts, which were subpar, but do not represent his overall ability to win.

"Anybody that wins 90 games and loses 41, to me, has won some big games," Johnson said. "This club [during Mussina's five years] hasn't really been in a must win, in a big game. This is the first time he's been on three days' rest. I think it's an unjust criticism."

Beware of the Indians

Johnson said he believes the Cleveland Indians are the club to beat in the American League.

"You gotta like Cleveland," Johnson said. "You don't do it with mirrors when your team is leading the league in earned run average. Offensively, they're more balanced now with [Jose] Vizcaino and [Kevin] Seitzer. They're a little more balanced against left-handed pitching now."

Three draftees set free

Three amateur players taken in the June draft were declared free agents because their teams did not tender them contracts within 15 days of drafting them.

The three players were all near the top of the draft.

Minnesota originally drafted Travis Lee, a first baseman generally regarded as the top position player in the draft, with the second overall pick. Pitcher John Patterson was drafted fifth overall by Montreal. The San Francisco Giants took pitcher Matt White seventh overall.

Orioles general manager Pat Gillick said the team has yet to make a decision on whether to offer a contract to any of the three.

"We haven't checked with our scouting people yet," Gillick said.

Reportedly, Lee has received two offers for $2 million.

Praise for Zeile

Todd Zeile provides more than just a right-handed bat to balance out the Orioles lineup.

"He's a different type hitter than we have," Johnson said. "He stays inside everything. He uses the whole field and at the same time he has a lot of pop.

"He's very patient at the plate, he stays behind the ball and he doesn't strike out that much. I was looking for that hitter to plug in there and do those things."

500 homers minus four

Earl Sterlock, one of the Orioles' longtime press box attendants, found a mistake in the poster of Eddie Murray the Orioles gave away to fans at Sunday's game.

The poster features Murray standing in front of what are supposed to be 500 baseballs, each depicting one of Murray's first 500 home runs, with the pitcher and the date of the homer on each ball.

However, Sterlock and Orioles telephone technician Tim Slater repeatedly counted the balls and discovered only 496 balls appear on the photo.

"It's been checked, rechecked, double-checked and cross-checked," Sterlock said.

Fred Trautman, another press box attendant, is a math teacher and couldn't resist trying to figure out which four balls were missing.

He discovered it was: Frank Viola, May 7, 1991; Bob Tewksbury, June 20, 1992; Bill Risley, June 21, 1993; and Greg Harris, Aug. 26, 1993. "That's the mathematician in me," Trautman said. "You can't leave an equation unfinished."

Around the horn

With his ninth-inning double, Murray become only the second player with 20 or more doubles for 20 consecutive seasons, joining Hall of Famer Tris Speaker (1909-1928). Before Mo Vaughn last night, Lou Gehrig, Boog Powell, Ted Williams and Tim Raines were the only left-handed hitters to homer three times in a game at Fenway. It also was the first three-homer game by a Boston player since Carl Yastrzemski in 1976. The Red Sox have scored at least seven runs in all of Tom Gordon's 12 wins.

Pub Date: 9/25/96

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