CHICAGO -- Right-hander Storm Davis got through Monday night's start without incident, but it may be a couple of weeks before he is able to pitch without any built-in restrictions.
Manager Johnny Oates had Davis on a 75-pitch limit against the White Sox, which worked out to 4 2/3 Orioles notebook
innings. Oates said that he'll raise that limit to 90 for his weekend start against the Texas Rangers and push it to 100 for his start in New York next week. Once he gets beyond 100, he'll be monitored on an inning-by-inning basis just like everyone else.
Davis may not have lasted long Monday night, but he showed that he can pitch effectively under adverse conditions. He had spent 15 days on the disabled list with a groin strain, but still retained a good grasp on the strike zone.
Was he surprised to have such good control after an injury and a long layoff?
"Yes and no," he said. "Yes, because you never know what's going to happen. No, because there was a lot of work that went into it between starts, and no, because Jeff Tackett handled the game really well. He does a good job out there. He really encourages you from start to finish."
The groin strain apparently has healed, but Davis doesn't expect to pitch entirely without pain. He still has to deal with the heel spur and the painful left arch that have troubled him since spring training. That's why he now wears high-top cleats on the mound.
"That's what bothers me the most," he said, "but it's something ** that I've shown that I can play with. Richie and Jamie [trainers Richie Bancells and Jamie Reed] have done a good job of getting the inflammation and swelling down between games."
It is a problem that may require more drastic treatment after the season, though Davis stops short of saying that he'll have the bone spur removed surgically.
If the Chicago White Sox had tied the game in the 12th inning on Monday night, right-hander Rick Sutcliffe would have been an inning away from a potentially lengthy relief outing.
He was the most rested of the Orioles starters, and there weren't any relievers left.
"He could have pitched eight innings if he had to," Oates said.
Fortunately for the Orioles, that was not necessary, but they had a contingency plan for last night's game if Sutcliffe had not been available.
Rookie Richie Lewis, who was optioned to the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings to make room for Davis, would have been recalled to make the start and one of the extra outfielders would have been sent out temporarily to make room. Lewis hadn't left Chicago yet.
The Orioles have spent a lot of time analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of White Sox first baseman Frank Thomas, and it finally appears to be paying off. Before going 2-for-5 last night, he had had just two hits in his past 14 at-bats against them.
Before that slump, he was 10-for-22 this year and had a .448 lifetime average against the Orioles.
"We're doing better," Oates said, "but it's a combination of things. I don't think he's swinging the bat as well as he was. I don't think he's as confident as he has been, but any time you get him out, you've got to feel fortunate."
Maddux an Oriole?
Don't get your hopes up. There is a possibility that Chicago Cubs pitcher Greg Maddux will be traded before the Aug. 1 waiver deadline, but the Orioles don't figure to gouge their roster their minor-league system to rent the potential free agent for two months.
Right-hander Mark Williamson will begin an injury rehabilitation assignment with the Double-A Hagerstown Suns tonight. He's scheduled to pitch two innings in his first competitive appearance since elbow surgery on May 12.
Williamson could remain at the minor-league level for up to 30 days, though it seems likely that he'll be back in the major leagues before that.