Over the winter, Brian Holton went from the World Champions to the team with baseball’s worst record.
He didn’t consider it much a comedown because he knew a chance to become a starting pitcher was thrown in.
“My No. 1 goal is to go out and win a spot in the rotation and take the ball every five days and see what I can do,” Holton said. “I think (the Dodgers) were very comfortable with me pitching as a set-up man and in middle relief. They have a couple of starters over there that they are really high on and I don’t think I’d ever have gotten the chance.”
Holton, 29, came to the Orioles in the deal that sent slugger Eddie Murray to the Dodgers. Even though he had 7-3 record and a 1.70 ERA that was the second-best in the majors behind Cincinnati’s John Franco, Holton was overshadowed by rookie Juan Bell when the deal was announced.
“This is a rebuilding stage here and I’m excited to be a part of it,” Holton said. “Last year, I found out what it takes to win. It takes a lot of hard work. A lot of people counted us out but we (the Dodgers) believed in ourselves. It showed me that if you believe in yourself you can do anything.”
The right-hander held right-handed batters to a .204 batting average last year and allowed only one home run all season. He credited a new-born confidence in his fastball for his success.
“The curve ball, that’s my bread and butter,” said Holton. “But last year, I got a lot of confidence in my fastball. I’m not afraid to throw it. I’ll throw it anytime.
“The year before (in 1987) it got around and they (opposing hitters) were looking for breaking balls. I started throwing fastballs and was freezing a few hitters. I was throwing a fastball when they were looking for a curveball. It was an adjustment. That’s all pitching is.”
Orioles manager Frank Robinson has listed Holton among his seven leading candidates for five starting roles. Robinson has also said that nothing is set, but it appears that Dave Schmidt, Jose Bautista, Jeff Ballard and rookie Bob Milacki are the four leaders. Holton is competing with rookies Pete Harnisch and Gregg Olson for the other starting berth.
For Holton, pitching in the major leagues has been an adjustment. From 1980-86, 150 of Holton’s 172 appearances in the minors came as a starting pitcher. When he got to the Dodgers, they had a different role in mind.
“That was the first time I ever pitched out of the bullpen,” Holton said. “It was an adjustment.”
Holton said that coming to the American League will force him to make one change he won’t mind making--pitching to a designated hitter instead of a pitcher.
“I think if you look back, every pitcher I faced in the National League, I either walked him or he got a hit any how,” Holton said.
Coming from a winner to baseball’s biggest loser was another adjustment, but Holton is set on getting the same thing out of Baltimore that he earned in Los Angeles.
“I had a good time in Los Angeles,” Holton said. “They treated me well. I left there and I’ve got a World Series ring that I’ll have on my finger. I’d like to get another one.”