CLEVELAND -- Could Eric Bell be one of those who got away from the Orioles?
The lefthander pitched the final four innings of Cleveland's 2-1 win yesterday, shutting out his former teammates on one hit. Bell (2-0) has allowed only two hits in 9 1/3 innings since being promoted from Triple A Canton-Akron. He had gone four years between victories in the big leagues.
Elbow surgery followed by a slow recovery influenced the Orioles to leave Bell off their major-league roster last winter. He ultimately signed with the Indians as a six-year minor-league free agent.
"He looked about the same," said Cal Ripken Sr., the third base coach who managed the Orioles in 1987, when Bell won 10 games as a rookie. "He looks like he might have lost a little off his fastball, but he didn't throw that hard to begin with. He made some good pitches with his changeup."
The changeup has always been Bell's best pitch, one of the reasons the Orioles decided not to use a roster spot to protect him last year. Since Hank Peters, Tom Giordano and Tom Dowd, all now front-office officials with Cleveland, were with the Orioles when Bell first came to the big leagues, the Indians seemed a logical team for him as he pursued his comeback.
Yesterday Bell relieved righthander Shawn Hillegas, who made his first start in 49 appearances this year. The Orioles scored their lone run in the first inning, when the first three batters reached base. Hillegas then proceeded to retire the next 15 hitters he faced.
* JOE'S CUTTING NO SLACK: Joe Orsulak caught another baserunner yesterday, when Carlos Martinez tried to stretch a fifth-inning single into a double. It was Orsulak's sixth assist in his last four starts.
For the season, Orsulak leads all major-league outfielders with a club-record 20 assists. He is only the second American League outfielder (Jesse Barfield is the other) to reach that figure in the last seven years.
* NARROW ESCAPE: There was a scary moment in the first inning of Saturday afternoon's 10-1 loss. A line drive off the bat of Cal Ripken hit a spectator sitting in the first row behind the third base dugout.
Jim Macaluso, attending the game with his two sons, was taken to St. Vincent Charity Hospital after being hit in the face. Although he had considerable swelling, Macaluso did not suffer any fractures.
Before he was released from the hospital, the Orioles delivered a bat and two balls autographed by Ripken for Macaluso and sons Chris and Jimmy.
* ANOTHER MILESTONE FOR CAL? Ripken and Chicago's Frank Thomas both have a chance to finish this season in elite company. In the last 50 years only six righthanded batters have ** hit for at least a .325 average, drove in 100 runs and hit 30 home runs.
Ripken and Thomas have both surpassed the 30-100 marks. After going 0-for-4 yesterday, Ripken is hitting .323, one point lower than Thomas. Roy Campanella (1951), Al Rosen (1953), Willie Mays (1954), Hank Aaron (1959-61-71), Frank Robinson (1962) and Jim Rice (1977) are the six righthanded hitters with the .325, 30, 100 combination in the last 50 years.
Ripken will become only the second shortstop (Ernie Banks is the other) to hit over .300 with 30 home runs and 100 RBIs.
* A MATTER OF STREAKS: The Orioles' streak of hitting at least one home run ended after 12 games yesterday. During the streak, which is two short of the club record set in 1987, they hit a total of 22 home runs.
On the other hand, however, the Orioles did tie a club record by playing their 10th straight game without an error.
* THIS 'N THAT: In losing two of three to the Indians, the Orioles scored only four runs over the weekend, but managed to finish with a 7-6 season edge over the AL East's last-place team.
The Orioles finished their next-to-last road trip of the year with a 2-4 record, losing two of three in Boston and Cleveland.
Glenn Davis sat out the last two games with a strained back muscle (unrelated to his previous injury). He probably will return to the lineup in the series against the Red Sox.
For the second time in a week, the Orioles were victims of a perfectly executed squeeze bunt yesterday, when rookie Mark Lewis drove in Jerry Browne with the tying run in the ninth inning.