Thursday, April 29, 1999

REDS NOTEBOOK


Tomko off the hook but still at a loss

BY CHRIS HAFT
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        PHILADELPHIA — Brett Tomko knows he's in trouble. Other than that, he can't quite figure out what's happening.

        After being plagued by walks in his previous two outings, Tomko surrendered a career-high four home runs Wednesday against the Philadelphia Phillies while allowing seven runs in four innings. The Reds surged back to win, 12-8, but that didn't ease Tomko's mind.

        Tomko, who issued just one walk, actually felt he was throwing effectively.

        “It's a bad feeling when you have decent command and you're not walking people and you're getting hit,” said the right-hander, who began this season with an impressive 24-19 record. “The whole thing the last few starts was, "Don't walk people.' Then I go out there and walk one guy and I'm getting hit. There are a lot of weird thoughts going around me ... If I throw strikes, I get pounded, but if I walk people, I get nickel-and-dimed.”

        Tomko fell behind on each of the hitters who hit the three consecutive homers off him in the first inning: Scott Rolen (2-0), Rico Brogna (2-1) and Ron Gant (2-1), who pelted an inside-the-park shot off the top of the right-center field wall that caromed off Mike Cameron's leg and into the right-field corner.

        “That was the big problem,” Tomko said. “I had to get more of the plate than I would have.”

        Tomko will receive his next start on Monday in the opener of a three-game series against Arizona at Cinergy Field. But he might not be guaranteed anything beyond that.

        “You can't just live on your past,” said Reds manager Jack McKeon, referring Tomko and tonight's starter, Jason Bere, who also has struggled (6.89 ERA). “They have to do something. I know it's early, but it's their fifth start. This is the time you have to put it in gear. He (Tomko) is better than that. We know that. But he's going to have to start showing us.”

        Nobody knows this more than Tomko.

        “Except for one start, I haven't given much of anything to this team,” he said. “Everyone's been pretty encouraging, but it's still embarrassing to face everybody every day and know you haven't really done a whole lot.”

More work for Wohlers
        Mark Wohlers briefly threw on the Veterans Stadium mound as pitching coach Don Gullett tinkered with his delivery.

        Wohlers is expected to throw a simulated game today.

        “Gully had his toolbox out there, with screwdrivers and wrenches,” McKeon joked.

Bere tinkering
        — Bere believes that minor adjustments will help him regain his effectiveness, beginning tonight.

        Bere, who has allowed eight runs (six earned) in 4 innings spanning his last two starts, has worked on coordinating his arm speed with his weight transfer. He hopes this tinkering will help him against the Phillies tonight.

        After permitting seven hits and seven walks in his last two games, Bere (1-0) thinks he has cured what ailed him.

        “I think it's just staying back, getting my arm in a better position,” Bere said.

Exposure for Casey ...
        Major news organizations have noticed that Casey has led the National League in hitting virtually all month.

        Baseball Weekly magazine plans to shoot a cover photo of Casey and Atlanta center fielder Andruw Jones on Friday for its May 12 edition. The cover story is “Superstars of Tomorrow,” focusing on budding stars age 25 and younger, such as Casey (24) and Jones (22).

        Casey also is featured in this week's edition of Sports Illustrated and will visit the CNN/SI studios in Atlanta for an interview Saturday.

Backing the blue
        Though he was critical of umpire Brian Runge's ninth-inning call at second base that killed a potential Reds rally Tuesday, McKeon didn't like the postgame grumbling he heard from players about ball-and-strike calls.

        “You're reaching for straws,” McKeon said. “Look in the mirror. They (umpires) have never cost you a game. They're going to miss some calls. They missed one last night. But we make mistakes, too.”

        Players have blamed the advent of the “high” strike, which umpires have been urged to call, for the perceived inconsistency in umpires' calls.

        “Players aren't used to seeing that pitch called a strike,” McKeon said. “So they gripe about it.”

Etc.
        McKeon liked Gabe White's effort in Tuesday night's 10-inning, 1-0 loss, even though the left-hander put the only run of the game on base with a walk and suffered the loss. “He wasn't aiming the ball. He was throwing it,” McKeon said. “He wasn't afraid of walking the hitter.”

       



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