Mills expands relief role as fill-in starter

July 31, 1992|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- Barring "extraordinary" circumstances, right-hander Alan Mills will make his third major-league start -- and his first for the Orioles -- tomorrow afternoon in Boston.

With his rotation in what he hopes is a temporary state of flux, Orioles manager Johnny Oates had to scramble for two starters for the four-game weekend series against the Red Sox that started with a rare day-night doubleheader today.

Richie Lewis, who spent four inactive days in the Orioles bullpen immediately after the All-Star break, will return from the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings to pitch tonight's game. He will take the place of Storm Davis, whose strained left arch has restricted him to pitching in relief.

The Orioles will make a roster move before the second game of the doubleheader to make room for Lewis.

"Unless we need him in the doubleheader, Mills will start [tomorrow]," said Oates. "And I wouldn't use him [today] except under extraordinary circumstances to win a game. It would almost have to be extra innings when we didn't have anybody left."

Davis' tender foot, which became a factor in the fifth inning of both of his starts this year, is expected to keep the right-hander in the bullpen for the rest of the season. "That's the direction I'm leaning," said Oates.

With Davis out of the picture, Lewis and Mills could be auditioning for the fifth spot in the rotation.

"After this weekend, we won't need a fifth starter for nine days," said Oates, pointing out that Thursday is an off day. "I'm not going to make a decision on one start, but we'll just have to wait and see what happens."

Even if Davis had been able to start tonight, as originally scheduled, the Orioles still would have added a pitcher for this weekend to maintain depth in the bullpen.

Mills, who made two starts for the Yankees last year (a loss and a no-decision), was told by pitching coach Dick Bosman to prepare himself for a starting assignment tomorrow. Mills, 25, downplayed his changing role.

"I'll just go out and take it inning by inning," said Mills, who leads the American League in relief wins (seven) and is seventh in relief innings (59 2/3 ). He has pitched at least four innings on seven different occasions, and has 22 relief appearances since joining the Orioles from Rochester on April 17.

"He's pitched the most out there, and he's the one we feel can stretch it out a little bit," Oates said of the decision to start Mills.

The Orioles would like to get five or six innings from Mills, who wouldn't speculate on how far he thought he could go. "I don't want to dwell on that," Mills said. "I'll just concentrate on getting ahead of the hitters, and go from there."

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