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Abbott's Hole Gets a Bit Deeper After Horrendous Start

August 11, 1996|JOHN WEYLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ANAHEIM — There were no reports of looting at Anaheim Stadium Saturday night, but Jim Abbott would have been safe, anyway.

He had absolutely nothing.

Armed with an erratic 82-mph, batting-practice fastball and a breaking pitch that kept coming up a couple feet short of home plate, Abbott's freefall into the abyss reached new speed and new depths.

How fast? Any hopes of an end to his 10-game losing streak were dashed in less than half an hour. How deep? Abbott, who has shown signs of emerging from his funk--he pitched reasonably well during his last two outings--flung himself into a cavernous hole in the first inning.

A little bad luck and a lot of bad pitches later, the Royals had a 6-0 lead. The bad luck:

* With the count full, Jose Offerman hit a bouncer off Abbott's glove that caromed to third baseman George Arias, who had no play.

* Tom Goodwin cued a 2-2 pitch to the right side. First baseman J.T. Snow fielded the ball and flipped to Abbott, who lost a photo-finish footrace to the fastest man in baseball from home to first.

The bad pitches:

* Craig Paquette took an outside 3-1 pitch to load the bases.

* Abbott bounced a 3-1 pitch to Mike Macfarlane to push across the first run.

* Mike Sweeney watched Abbott throw four consecutive balls to put the Royals ahead, 2-0.

* With one out, Johnny Damon, apparently tired of the slow pace at which the Royals were scoring, slammed a 3-1 pitch deep into the seats in right field for Kansas City's first grand slam of the season.

"I wish I would've fielded that first ball, then maybe things would've been different," Abbott said. "After that, I just couldn't find the strike zone. I felt fine, I have no excuses. It was just a terrible, terrible performance."

Abbott also gave up a second-inning solo homer to Michael Tucker, three more singles and another walk and was charged with nine earned runs during his 3 1/3-inning stint.

Abbott, who left to an only-in-Anaheim standing ovation, is 1-15 with a 7.79 earned-run average. Next stop, the Anthony Young Zone. Young was 1-16 with the Mets in 1993.

Will the Angels pull the plug on the teetering left-hander? Would they consider sending him to the minors?

Manager John McNamara, who held a lengthy closed-door meeting with General Manager Bill Bavasi, said he would reserve a decision on Abbott's next start until he talked it over with pitching coach Joe Coleman.

Bavasi said only that Abbott was "still here until he's not."

"He made good pitches to the first two guys, then he started guiding it a little," Coleman said. "He was a little unlucky, but that stuff happens. Distractions are part of the game.

"This game is like golf. When you're playing good, you never hear anything. When you're playing bad, you can hear a guy sneeze three holes away."

Abbott isn't sure what would be most beneficial at this point, whether he wants to stay in the rotation and keep plugging away or take a break.

"I don't know," he said, "There's a breakdown in there somewhere. I just wish I could identify it."

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