DUNEDIN, FLA. — Oates sizzles over late-inning fizzle
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Orioles have been one of the hottest teams in baseball for most of the spring, but yesterday all they had was the hottest manager.
John Oates was upset with the way the club played in a 5-3 blown-lead loss to the Toronto Blue Jays at Grant Field, and why not? The normally dependable Orioles defense committed five errors to account for five unearned runs in the ugliest performance of the spring.
Jeff Kent ended it with a two-out, two-strike, three-run homer off relief stopper Gregg Olson after third baseman Leo Gomez made two errors to keep the ninth inning alive.
"I just don't think we were ready to play the last couple of days," said a visibly angry Oates. "We made mental mistakes. Our concentration was not there. We missed signs. We loafed on the bases. We were lackadaisical in the field. Other than that, I was happy. The bottom line is, I thought they stunk.
"The pitching was OK. That was the only thing I was happy with."
And everything had been going so well.
Right-hander Rick Sutcliffe faced a lineup that featured every big Blue Jays hitter except Joe Carter and held Toronto to an unearned run on three hits. Mark Williamson followed him to the mound and pitched a pair of scoreless innings. Olson pitched well enough to get four outs in the ninth inning, but Kent yanked a 1-2 pitch over the left-field fence to cap the four-run rally.
"I could just chalk it up to being a weird day," Olson said, "but I've got to take it home and think about it. I gave the guy a pitch to hit and he hit it. I tip my hat to him."
Olson has not given up an earned run in six Grapefruit League appearances, but he has allowed 13 base runners in 6 2/3 innings. He was favoring his pitching hand after the game, leaving room to wonder if he had suffered a recurrence of the blister problem that has bothered him on and off over the past two years.
"I wish it was that," he said. "I could use an excuse right now."
Sherman back to Padres
The Orioles returned Darrell Sherman to the San Diego Padres yesterday.
Sherman, 24, an outfielder, was selected by Baltimore in the major-league draft in December. Under the rules of the draft, the Orioles were obliged to keep Sherman on their major-league roster or offer him back to San Diego for half of the $50,000 price they had paid to obtain him.
The Padres reclaimed Sherman and assigned him to the Triple-A Las Vegas Stars.
Sherman batted .295 and stole 43 bases for the Double-A Wichita Wranglers last year. In spring training with the Orioles, he was expected to compete for the leadoff job but batted .074 in 27 at-bats.
Pratt won't return
The Philadelphia Phillies sent catcher Todd Pratt to the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons yesterday. He was selected out of the Orioles organization in the 1991 winter draft for $50,000. The Phillies were able to send Pratt down after Baltimore declined to take him back for $25,000 and other clubs declined to claim him on waivers.
The move leaves Ray Stephens as the backup to Darren Daulton. Sources say the Phillies are combing the waiver wire for a more experienced receiver.
Tough day for C. Ripken
Shortstop Cal Ripken had a rare off-day in the field. He committed a fielding error and a throwing error, and also got away with an erratic throw.
His fourth-inning throwing error broke a string of five errorless games by the Orioles this spring. The club had committed 10 errors in the first 21 games.
Ripken has had only one two-error regular-season game in the past five years. He made two miscues in a May 24 game against the New York Yankees last season.
Mesa at minor-league camp
Right-hander Jose Mesa pitched six scoreless innings in a minor-league game yesterday at Twin Lakes Park in Sarasota, giving up four hits and extending his scoreless streak to 20 innings.
Mesa has gone nine innings without giving up a run in Grapefruit League competition. He pitched five perfect innings earlier this week in a "B" game against the St. Louis Cardinals, and added six strong innings against the Chicago White Sox's Triple-A Vancouver club yesterday.
Oddly enough, both the "B" game and yesterday's minor-league contest ended in scoreless ties.
Left-hander Jim Poole remains inactive, but he said yesterday that he can get ready to pitch in a hurry once the pain subsides in his shoulder.
"If everything is 100 percent, I think I can move along pretty quickly," Poole said, "but I really don't know what they have planned for me. After the seven to 10 days are up, we'll go from there."
Poole has been suffering from shoulder tendinitis since January, but he avoided any extensive examination until it became apparent that he could not pitch through the pain this spring. Perhaps if he had addressed the situation earlier, he might not be looking at a late start this year.
"Hindsight is 20-20," Poole said. "I handled it the way I thought I should. I figured it would work out."
Poole underwent an arthrogram on Monday that showed no structural damage to his rotator cuff or labrum, but he will not pick up a baseball for another week or so. He will begin the season on the disabled list and likely make his next competitive appearance in an injury-rehabilitation setting.
Devereaux stays hot
Center fielder Mike Devereaux had a single in three at-bats yesterday to raise his exhibition average to .322. He has nine hits in his past five games, with three stolen bases. His 19 hits this spring tie him with Cal Ripken for the team lead.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.