ARLINGTON, TEXAS — Rotation's new look puts Smith back in Rochester
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Right-hander Roy Smith became the latest victim of the Baltimore Orioles' youth-oriented make-over, even though he was outrighted to the Class AAA Rochester Red Wings to make room for veteran first baseman Glenn Davis.
Smith, who owns the only winning record (5-4) among the nine pitchers who have started for the Orioles this year, was dropped from the rotation last week when the Orioles recalled Jose Mesa from the Red Wings roster.
He was sent out to make room for Davis but had become expendable when the club turned the rotation into a late-season proving ground for its best young pitching prospects.
Smith and Dave Johnson appeared vulnerable when the Orioles announced Sunday that a move was forthcoming. Smith had the better overall numbers, but Johnson apparently survived the cut because of his 13-victory performance in 1990.
"I suppose that had something to do with it," manager John Oates said. "What it comes down to is that neither one of them has set the world on fire, but I would guess you would give D.J. the chance to pitch out of it as the ninth or 10th pitcher."
Oates met with Smith yesterday and encouraged him to accept the minor-league assignment and stay with the organization.
"I told Roy that he is a great insurance policy for us," Oates explained. "I told him to go to Rochester and get ready. The call came this year. It could come again.
"If I know Roy, with expansion coming up, he wants to keep pitching. I'd like to keep him in the organization, but if someone wants him to pitch in the major leagues, we would not stand in his way."
Smith originally was signed to a Rochester contract after he parted company with the Minnesota Twins organization. He was called up to join the Orioles rotation in late May and won four of his first five decisions, but lost two of his next three before being sent to the bullpen.
He can be recalled when the major-league rosters expand to 40 players on Sept. 1 -- as can fellow veterans Jeff Robinson, Jeff Ballard and Paul Kilgus -- but Oates could not guarantee that any of them will spend September with the club.
"I couldn't make any promises," Oates said, "because we haven't even talked about call-ups yet. Everybody's out of town. I'm here. Frank [Robinson] is here. Roland Hemond is in Bluefield and Doug [Melvin] is in Sarasota. We'll talk about that after we get home."
Left-handed pitching prospect Arthur Rhodes was in uniform last night and is excited about the prospect of making his major-league debut 100 miles from his home in Waco, Texas, but he was surprised to be called up so soon.
"I was surprised," said Rhodes, who is scheduled to start tomorrow night's game at Arlington Stadium. "I was shocked when Jerry [Narron] called me in to tell me. I didn't know I would becoming up this early. I thought maybe in September."
Rhodes, who was named the Topps National Association Player of the Month for July, was 7-4 with a 2.70 ERA at Class AA Hagerstown.
"I'm just going to go out and pitch like it was a Double-A game," he said.
The Orsulak file
Joe Orsulak's third-inning single extended his hitting streak to a career-high 17 games, the longest hitting streak by an Oriole since Cal Ripken's 17-game streak in 1986. The team record is 22, held by Doug DeCinces (1978-79) and Eddie Murray (1982). Orsulak's 13 outfield assists are the most by an Oriole since Paul Blair had 14 in 1973.
Orioles in October?
Oates said yesterday that he would love to take the young nucleus of the club to the Florida Instructional League this October to work on base-running and fundamentals, but he doesn't think it will be feasible.
"I wouldn't want them to go down there and play," he said, "but it would be great to have them down there while they are still in shape to work on some things."
Most players with major-league contracts are reluctant to give up part of their off-season for something as mundane as instructional drills, but Oates figures to convince a few that their careers could be enhanced by a few weeks in the Florida sun.
He would like to persuade one of his veteran pitchers to go, too, but he doesn't think Jeff Robinson would agree to go.
"I don't know if he would be interested in that," Oates said, "but with a few mechanical changes, I think he would be back getting major-league hitters out."