ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Ben McDonald's confidence in his right elbow is growing with each start. The confidence in his ability to get the hitters out should be following soon.
The Baltimore Orioles right-hander gave up five runs, four earned, last night to the Syracuse Chiefs in a 12-4 loss his second rehabilitation start for the Orioles' Class AAA affiliate, the Rochester Red Wings, at Silver Stadium.
"I have no problem with my elbow," McDonald said after throwing 73 pitches in four innings. "It felt good. It felt strong. . . . I'm trying to get back to where I'm confident. That comes with getting a couple of bounces. That confidence is starting to build."
"You'd like to see better results," said Orioles assistant general manager Frank Robinson, who was among 7,434 who saw McDonald give up six hits, walk one and strike out four. "The main thing is how he's throwing, how he came out of it."
McDonald came out with seven pitches left on his 80-pitch limit because he developed a small blister next to the nail on his right middle finger, which hastened his exit and is making him reluctant to have another rehabilitation start.
Last year, McDonald developed blisters on the same finger during a rehabilitation period at Rochester that were traced to high seams on International League balls.
Robinson said that would be up to manager John Oates. "If we feel like he needs more time, he'll get more time down here." He said the blister may have popped up because McDonald's skin is not toughened from pitching.
He said Orioles officials would meet tomorrow and discuss McDonald's performance.
"We're not anxious to rush him," he said.
McDonald said: "I'd rather go up and start pitching there and see what happens. Get some confidence going up there, even if I have to go to the pen."
In two starts with the Red Wings, McDonald has pitched seven innings, giving up 10 hits, seven runs (six earned) and five walks and striking out seven.
He said his biggest improvement from Friday's start against the Pawtucket Red Sox was that he walked only one, compared with four against the Red Sox. Of his 73 pitches to the Chiefs, 46 were strikes.
"I wish the results would have been better," McDonald said. "I would rather get hit around the ballpark than walk guys. There's no defense for a walk."
McDonald gave up two runs in each of the first two innings, but his pitch count was lower than it was Friday against Pawtucket, when he allowed two runs in the first inning on 43 pitches.
McDonald threw 21 pitches, 13 for strikes, in the first inning. He issued a one-out walk, then gave up a home run to Derek Bell, the International League's leading hitter.
McDonald retired the leadoff batter in the second, then gave up a single, double and two-run single to No. 9 hitter Shawn Jeter after falling behind in the count, 3-1.
Red Wings pitching coach Dick Bosman went to the mound after Jeter's hit, and McDonald responded by getting Eddie Zosky to ground to short on the first pitch to begin an inning-ending double play.
He had no problems in the third, but spent 23 pitches getting out of the fourth inning, in which he gave up a run, bringing his pitch total to 73.