ROCHESTER, N.Y. HAGERSTOWN SUNS — Without Poole, Jones, Wings find little relief
* ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- With the loss of Jim Poole and Stacy Jones to the Orioles, Red Wings manager Greg Biagini says he is holding auditions for the role of stopper in the bullpen.
"Poole and Jones are severely missed," Biagini said before last night's 5-2 loss to the Pawtucket Red Sox. "It's not how you start this game that counts. It's how you finish."
Last night was a case in point.
Paul Kilgus struck out six and allowed only four hits in seven innings against the Sox. He left with a 1-0 lead, but reliever Dave Martinez walked the first two batters in the eighth inning. Anthony Telford came in and almost got the Wings out of the jam, but allowed a two-out double to tie the game. Telford then gave up a grand slam to Eric Wedge, a catcher hitting .191.
He's not the only reliever who is struggling. Rob Woodward took three losses against the Toledo Mud Hens last weekend. He has a 7-7 record with a 4.50 ERA. At one point, the Wings relievers gave up 19 hits and eight runs in 13 2/3 innings against the last-place Mud Hens.
The Wings' pitching staff suffered another blow when Israel Sanchez was placed on the disabled list yesterday with recurring elbow problems. He is expected to miss the rest of the season. Sanchez, who already has had two arm operations, had a 6-2 record with a 3.42 ERA.
Jeff Robinson has impressed Biagini in his nine innings in the three games with the Wings. He has given up only one unearned run.
"He's throwing strikes. He's getting his slider and forkball over," the Wings manager said. "He wants to try using the forkball more and he wants to get more compact in his delivery."
Jeff Ballard, however, has a 5.40 ERA, giving up 10 hits in five innings.
"We've got to get him to change speeds," Biagini said. "Every pitch looks the same, which isn't very good with the velocity of his pitches."
@ * HAGERSTOWN -- The Orioles' Minor League Player of the Month for July had a rocky start in August.
Suns lefthander Arthur Rhodes gave up eight runs in 3 2/3 innings in a 10-6 loss to Harrisburg, putting his record at 7-2. Of the hits he surrendered, however, two were ground balls and two were bloopers.
Rhodes earned the July salute from the Orioles' minor league department by posting a 3-0 record, with a 1.96 ERA in five starts. He has restricted batters to a .196 average this season. He's scheduled to start tonight in Reading in the finale of a road trip.
In his fourth professional season, in his 1,385th at-bat, second baseman Rod Lofton finally hit a home run.
He led off Tuesday's 6-2 win over Reading with it. Lofton has extended his Eastern League lead in stolen bases to 48.
Outfielder Paul Carey has missed four games with a bad right shoulder. He is questionable for this weekend against Harrisburg.
Catcher Doug Robbins is in the hunt for the league batting title with a .305 average. Currently No. 4, Robbins' chances improved when the Cleveland Indians promoted Jim Thome (.337) from Canton-Akron to Triple A and recalled Carlos Martinez (.329) from the same club.
Robbins is a virtual cinch for the league on-base percentage crown with his .455 figure. He has 66 walks to go with his 73 hits.
* FREDERICK -- Injuries continue to plague the Keys. Now it's pitcher John O'Donoghue, who has missed a start after injuring his right knee while fielding a ground ball.
Despite a 7-8 record, O'Donoghue has been one of the team's most effective starters, with a 2.90 ERA and 128 strikeouts in 133 innings. Dave Miller arrived from the Suns as his replacement.
A handful of Keys have been hot since the Carolina League All-Star break July 24. Tony Beasley has batted .422 to raise his average from .217 to .249, Brad Tyler has gone .333 to rise from .190 to .255 and outfielder Damon Buford is up to .259 as a result of swinging a .357 bat.
Buford leads the league in steals with 39, while Frederick shortstop Manny Alexander is third with 36. With 147 thefts, the Keys are No. 2 behind Durham (152). The Orioles' top draft choice this season, Mark Smith, missed one game after fouling a ball off his foot.
* BLUEFIELD, W.Va. -- Every summer, hundreds of athletes attend Baltimore Orioles' tryout camps for a chance to play professional baseball. Two such players are in the Bluefield Orioles' starting lineup.
Catcher Bryan Grejtak and infielder Don Gilbert both attended tryouts last summer, leading to free-agent contracts. Grejtak, a native of Bradenville, Pa., signed in December after playing at Western Oklahoma Junior College and the University of Oklahoma. Gilbert, a native of Pasadena who spent four years at Winthrop College, made his debut July 23 and entered the starting lineup regularly four days later.
Grejtak earned Appalachian League Player of the Week honors June 23-29 for his three-home run effort against Martinsville.
"The three-homer game was a surprise to me," Grejtak said. "I got great pitches at the right spots. I tried to hit line drives and they went out of the park."
Gilbert played first and third at Winthrop after making the All-Metro team as a shortstop at Northeast High School. "The past two years I went to tryout camps and I played on Wagner's," Gilbert said. "I did real good at the camp at Mount St. Mary's. I kind of thought I'd be drafted, but a month later I got a call."
Gilbert has a .318 average and .454 on-base percentage since joining the Orioles. He stroked a two-run single Tuesday to put Bluefield ahead in a 7-4 win over Martinsville.