McDonald to try again tonight Rainout juggles Orioles rotation

April 22, 1991|By Kent Baker

Stay tuned for the continuing saga of "As The Starting Rotation Turns" when the Baltimore Orioles resume their road show tonight in Chicago.

Will Ben McDonald finally make his 1991 debut, or will Dave Johnson, the on-call guy, be obliged to fill in for him? And what is forthcoming from the fickle April weather, no small factor in Chicago?

Yesterday, when the Orioles were rained out of Game 3 of their series against the Texas Rangers, McDonald originally was supposed to start. Then it was Johnson, three days after his previous start.

The cold rain was the reason for the switch, manager Frank Robinson preferring to hold McDonald out until the skies clear. The right-hander is scheduled to start tonight against the Chicago White Sox.

"We don't want him to get up, then put him down. So it's best for him not to go out there, period," said Robinson. "The delay is what worries me. Cold is not the thing; it's the combination of everything."

It was announced that McDonald was scratched because he had clipped a nail too closely on the middle finger of his pitching hand, but McDonald said he could have worked despite that.

"The weather made the decision more than anything," he said. "This will probably work out better because I'll be on my normal days' rest with Saturday and Sunday off."

McDonald is recovered from a strained elbow muscle incurred during spring training, but the Orioles are guarding their most treasured arm closely.

That's why the same indecision may occur tonight at Comiskey Park.

"There's no sense taking a chance," said Robinson. "If it's rainy again close to game time, he won't pitch."

McDonald said that once the elbow is warmed up, he doesn't want it to cool down again because of a long inning or rain delay. But he added that he is ready to pitch.

"I'm not as sharp as I'm going to be, but I think I can pitch good enough to win," he said.

Which leaves Johnson with the same station . . . in a holding pattern. The pitcher in waiting.

If McDonald goes tonight, Johnson would be pushed back to start tomorrow night against Jack McDowell, who beat the Orioles on Opening Day. That would leave Johnson pitching on five days' rest, instead of the three he would have had if he had started yesterday.

"It really doesn't matter," said Johnson. "You play it by ear. Five days. Six days. It's not that big a deal. I've had good ones and bad ones after each scenario."

He agreed that yesterday "would not have been a good day for Ben to pitch," particularly on the short rest.

McDonald said the significance of the first night game at the new park wasn't important to him.

"All I want is to get my location and timing down . . . and win," he said. "I'll find out when I get to the park if I get the chance."

* Glenn Davis was in the original lineup at first base yesterday, then was moved to designated hitter in a late switch.

"We're just concerned about not hurting it any more," he said of his tight left hamstring, which "stiffened up on me a little bit" Saturday.

Robinson said he wasn't particularly looking forward to Davis' "moving around, stopping and starting" on defense.

* The move would have given Randy Milligan his first start of the season at his old position, prompting Robinson to say jokingly: "We'll find out if he has to introduce himself to his glove."

Milligan said: "The last time I saw first base was in an intrasquad game. When I put that glove on, it felt kind of funny. It sure has been an interesting year for me."

* No makeup date was set for the postponement, but a doubleheader Aug. 14 is likely.

Neither team has any days off immediately before or after Texas' next visit to Memorial Stadium, Aug. 13-15.

Another possibility is Aug. 29, when the teams have a common day off, but it would require the consent of the Major League Baseball Players Association because the Rangers would be playing more than 20 consecutive days.

* Juan Bell missed out on his first career Memorial Stadium start. He would have been the second baseman. . . . The Heroes of Baseball game, this year matching ex-Orioles with ex-Orioles beaters, was washed out for the second straight season. But all the notables were introduced to the sparse crowd huddled under the upper-deck concourse. . . . Sam Horn spent most of the rain delay signing autographs and entertaining the fans near the Orioles dugout.

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