"I don't feel like it."
"Strikeout, on my mother, Agripina Perez. Strikeout, strikeout, strikeout."
"O.K., O.K., O.K."
That's Vladimir on the mound for the Licey Tigres in the Dominican League, conversing with a ball. He winds up and throws, and the ball takes a little hop as it crosses the plate. "You're out!" yells the ump.
"Vladimir talks to his rosin bag, his glove and sometimes even his manager," says Julio Bibison, Carlos's manager in the Dominican. "It's like going to the circus. It's like seeing Mark Fidrych." Except that Vladimir not only talks to the ball, the ball talks back.
Vladimir had been an unreliable reliever (0-2 with a 4.50 ERA) two years back with the Little Falls (N.Y.) Mets. But when a spot opened up for him in the rotation, he won his first four starts en route to a 6-5 record. In '89 he missed most of the season after getting a hernia while pitching.
A hernia? Throwing a baseball?
"Yeah," says Valerio "He must have had a ton of stuff on the ball."
Through it all, Little Falls pitching coach Al Jackson, who is now with the Orioles, called him Senor. "I didn't know his name," says Jackson. "And then when I found out, I couldn't pronounce it."
"Half the guys in my country named Vladimir," says Vladimir. "What you think a Dominican name is, George Bell?"