The first few months of 1992 were very good for Orioles pitcher Bob Milacki. He won a $1.1 million salary from an arbitrator in February, and the second spot in the starting rotation in April.
But as the year advanced, things soured for Milacki, and he was optioned to the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings yesterday. His spot on the roster will be filled by right-hander Richie Lewis, who was third in the International League in strikeouts.
Milacki, 27, is the second Orioles starter to be moved from the roster in as many days. Jose Mesa, who assumed the fifth spot in the rotation behind Milacki, was traded Tuesday to the Cleveland Indians for minor-league outfielder Kyle Washington.
Milacki (5-7, 6.34 ERA) could not be reached for comment yesterday, but manager Johnny Oates said he handled his demotion well.
"He's ready to go pitch and get himself back to where he needs to be. He needs to relax a little bit," Oates said yesterday before the team left for a four game series with the Texas Rangers that starts tonight.
Although Milacki pitched well in spring training and in the early going, his performance slipped dramatically in the last few weeks, culminating in his last start Sunday against the Minnesota Twins, in which he allowed five runs and five hits in 2 2/3 innings, and left the ballgame to a cascade of boos from the Oriole Park crowd.
In his last six starts, Milacki was 0-4 with an ERA of 11.86, and though he led the team in wins last season with 10, his early-inning departures became taxing on a ballclub in contention for the American League East title.
"Our goal is to get better and we haven't been getting better the last four days, so we go out and try to find something different," Oates said.
Lewis is different, though it is unclear how much time he will have to prove himself with the parent club, since Storm Davis is eligible to come off the disabled list on Monday, when he is scheduled to start against the Chicago White Sox.
That would indicate that either Lewis, who compiled a 7-6 record and a 3.69 ERA with 101 strikeouts in 107 1/3 innings with the Red Wings, or Arthur Rhodes, who will make his second start Sunday since he was called up eight days ago to replace Davis, will be sent down.
"The way Arthur threw the other night [7 2/3 innings against Minnesota, allowing two runs and six hits], we'll give him another shot and see how he can do," Oates said.
"This way, we give Bob a chance to go down under a little less strenuous situation and try to get his act together. We'll give them both a chance, Arthur up here and Bob down there, and see what happens."