The grass was real. The stands packed. The day warm.
All in all, a lovely day for baseball in Fenway Park, though most of what Lou Piniella saw of the game played there Saturday he watched on television from the Seattle Mariners’ clubhouse.
Piniella exited early, ejected in the second inning of a contest Boston finally won, 10-8. While 33 men sweated the outcome for 3 hours and 25 minutes - ending the game with the bases full of Mariners - Piniella took his shoes off and pondered a familiar dilemma.
“We’re going to look for another solution in the fifth spot of our rotation,” he said.
What Piniella didn’t say, but could have, was, ‘again.’
The question lingers, and the answer is not rookie Rafael Carmona. Nor was it Tim Davis or Bob Wells or Jim Converse or John Cummings or George Glinatsis or Shawn Boskie.
The most likely candidate to join the rotation next time around is Salomon Torres, whose debut in a Seattle uniform came Friday night and lasted a third of an inning in relief and resulted in a loss.
On Saturday, Carmona made his second big-league start and lasted longer than his manager, but not by much. The 22-year-old got himself into trouble with the first batter he faced, and never really got out of it.
Troy O’Leary grounded to first base, Tino Martinez fielded the ball cleanly and fed to Carmona, who beat O’Leary to the bag. Except he missed stepping on it - opening a door the Red Sox poured through.
Before that first inning ended, Carmona had committed an error, a balk, a walk and allowed three hits. For those sins, he trailed 4-0.
After a breather, Carmona took the mound in the second inning, got two quick outs and then loaded the bases by walking three consecutive batters. It was between the second and the third walk that Piniella departed. He didn’t go quietly.
Carmona was struggling with his control, but several borderline pitches weren’t called strikes. When the rookie called in to plate umpire Jim Joyce, asking where a pitch had been, the veteran umpire gestured angrily at the pitcher.
Piniella went ballistic, then nuclear, then to the clubhouse - but not before going nose-to-nose with Joyce, accusing him of trying to intimidate Carmona.
“I said I didn’t think he’d have done the same thing if it was Roger Clemens on the mound and he assured me he would have,” Piniella said. “He also ran me.”
The problems continued. Between them, Carmona and reliever Wells gave Boston 10 runs in 5 innings.
“You can’t get that far back and expect to win,” Piniella said.
Ah, but the Mariners tried.
“We had 10 and they just kept pecking away,” ex-Mariner Erik Hanson said. “Nobody relaxed until it was over.”
In the end, Seattle out-hit Boston, 14-12, and rallied from deficits of 4-0 and 6-1 to cut the lead to 9-8 at one point. Tino Martinez had a pair of doubles, Edgar Martinez three hits and Marc Newfield, playing in his favorite big-league ballpark, doubled and hit his first home run of the season - a three-run shot in the fifth.
“I like this park,” Newfield said. Small wonder. He has three major-league home runs and two have been hit at Fenway.
Boston held on, but not easily. In the ninth, manager Kevin Kennedy called on closer Ken Ryan, who promptly walked three Mariners pinch-hitters to load the bases with two out.
“I don’t smoke and I’m not going to start,” Kennedy said of the inning, “but my pitching coach was back in the tunnel puffing away. I know from experience, Seattle can come back on you. They did it to me a couple times last year in Texas.”
“We got down but we battled back,” said M’s center fielder Rich Amaral. “It was the kind of game you expect at Fenway Park.”
The problem, as Piniella sees it, is that the Mariners are forced too often to do precisely that - come back. This almost always happens in games started by the fifth man in his rotation.
Almost certainly, changes are coming again. The Mariners have used 17 pitchers already - the team record for a full season is 23 - and aren’t done shuttling ‘em in just yet.
Carmona could go to the bullpen or the minors. Wells almost certainly is in jeopardy of losing his roster spot and Torres is probably headed for the rotation.
“What do you want me to say about Wells?” Piniella demanded. “You see the same damned games I do! Every time he pitches, they hit him. He’s got an ERA of 10.00 (8.77, actually) and that means he’s getting hit.”
The Red Sox are the only American League team not to be shut out in 1995. … Tim Naehring has seven RBIs in his last seven games for Boston. … Piniella’s ejection in the second inning, was his first of the season. … Seattle is the only major-league club wearing a uniform patch this season commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Negro Leagues. … Lee Tinsley, Red Sox outfielder, will begin a rehab assignment in Double-A Trenton starting today.
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