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Another Newcomer Dazzles Angel Hitters : Twins: Willie Banks overcomes rocky start to become fifth rookie pitcher in past month to defeat California.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Willie Banks knows how brutal major league hitters can be on rookie pitchers.

All he had to do was watch how the Twins pounded the Angels’ Joe Grahe for five runs in the first inning Monday night.

Banks nearly followed suit Tuesday night, giving up three consecutive hits to open the game. But Banks, making his major league debut as a starter, settled down and held the Angels to six hits and three runs in six innings as the Twins won, 7-4, at Anaheim Stadium.

Banks joined Cleveland’s Denis Boucher, Detroit’s Mark Leiter and New York’s Jeff Johnson and Scott Kamieniecki as rookie pitchers who have defeated the Angels in the past month.

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In fact, Banks had pitched only two innings in the majors before Tuesday night’s start.

Angel catcher Ron Tingley has a theory about inexperienced pitchers love facing the Angels. “A guy comes in (here) and throws a lot of different pitches than what we’re used to,” Tingley said. “Maybe he comes in from triple A and is excited about being here and throws three or four miles per hour faster than usual. But that’s no excuse.”

Banks struck out eight, including Gary Gaetti and Tingley twice, before giving way to reliever Mark Guthrie after six innings.

“I think I did a pretty good job,” said Banks, 22. “I got my pitches over. That was the first time I struck out eight all year long.”

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Banks didn’t get off to a great start, giving up singles to the first three batters he faced--Luis Polonia, Luis Sojo and Wally Joyner. But he got Dave Winfield to ground to first and struck out Dave Parker and Gaetti to end the inning.

“I didn’t think I was going to make it out of that inning,” Banks said.

After breezing through the next three innings, Banks had trouble protecting a 5-1 lead in the fifth. He walked Tingley and Dick Schofield, who then scored on Joyner’s two-out double to left center. But Banks struck out Winfield to end the inning.

“I lost a little concentration in that inning,” Banks said. “I had a big lead and I didn’t stay focused. I hurt myself there.”

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Still, Banks managed to work his way out of trouble--a fact that impressed Minnesota Manager Tom Kelly.

“He got some big outs,” Kelly said. “Gaetti, Parker and Winfield . . . that’s not too shabby.”

Kelly said he never hesitated in starting the unproven Banks against Chuck Finley (14-6), the Angels’ top starter. He said the rookie never felt the pressure of pitching in a big game for the AL West-leading Twins.

“It was pretty exciting watching that young man pitch tonight,” Kelly said. “It was fun for me to watch him throw so well.

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“He has good composure and poise, and he has three major league pitches (fastball, changeup and curve).”

Twin center fielder Kirby Puckett agreed.

“He was ready to pitch tonight,” Puckett said of Banks. “He sure didn’t look like a rookie out there. He came right at them.”

Banks started the season with the Twins’ triple-A club in Portland, where he won his last seven starts before being promoted. He made his major league debut in relief last week against New York, giving up three hits and two runs in the final two innings of the Twins’ 12-3 victory.

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“Pitching in Yankee Stadium got the monkey off my back as far as playing,” Banks said. “Then to come in here and pitch well . . . it was great.”


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