ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Arthur Rhodes did everything asked of him this spring, but it wasn't enough to win him a major-league job.
Under different circumstances the young left-hander would have gone north as one of the Orioles' five starters. But, for now, manager John Oates wants him to concentrate on finishing his minor-league education.
"He hasn't pitched Triple-A yet," Oates said of Rhodes. "He needs to go out and pitch 180 innings and do what [Mike] Mussina did last year.
"I told him not to even think about being called up -- if it happens, it happens. I don't want him looking over his shoulder.
"If he pitches three straight shutouts, I don't want him wondering if he's coming up. And if we bring up somebody, I don't want him worrying about it."
Rhodes was informed yesterday morning that he was being optioned to the Rochester Red Wings, a move that was not unexpected despite his 2.45 ERA in 11 innings. After a brief workout, he was given the rest of the day off and was not available for comment before leaving the club's complex.
Oates assured Rhodes that he had made progress, as well as a favorable impression. "I could sit here [in the dugout] and be at ease with him in the game this spring," said Oates, who couldn't say the same thing at the end of last year.
Promoted from the Double-A Hagerstown Suns, Rhodes was 0-3 with an 8.00 ERA in eight starts with the Orioles at the end of last season. "He's made a lot of progress," said Oates. "What I'd like to see is for him to make the same progress in the next six months that he's made in the last six.
"I'm not saying he won't come up this year -- I just don't want him worrying about it. Let him get his 180 innings down there and see what happens."
In addition to Rhodes, the Orioles also optioned pitchers Mike Oquist and Richie Lewis. Both also pitched well in brief exhibition appearances.
Lewis retired all six of the hitters he faced and Oquist allowed only two walks, striking out six in three innings.
The Orioles have 36 players in camp, including four non-roster players (pitcher Dennis Rasmussen, catchers Rick Dempsey and Mark Parent and infielder Mark McLemore).