When Arthur Rhodes pitches tonight against the California Angels, perhaps his biggest supporter will be Orioles manager Johnny Oates.
It's obvious Oates is hoping for a strong outing to gain ground, or keep pace, with the first-place Toronto Blue Jays. But a good performance from Rhodes also would allow Oates to rest his long relievers, who are coming off a busy week.
Todd Frohwirth, who threw 4 2/3 innings in Saturday's loss, leads the league in relief innings, and Alan Mills has been busy since his move from the starting rotation to the bullpen last week. Neither pitched during yesterday's 7-3 loss to Oakland, but Oates still is concerned about overworking the two.
"Our bullpen, especially our right-handers, have thrown a lot of pitches lately," Oates said. "If [Rhodes] gets knocked out early like in the second inning, who do you bring in to keep you in the game?"
That's one reason the Orioles yesterday purchased the contract of right-hander Anthony Telford from Rochester. Telford pitched in 26 games at Rochester -- 25 as a starter -- and was 11-7 with a 4.19 ERA.
"I felt I needed someone for insurance purposes," Oates said. "Right now I feel I need a pitcher more than someone who's going to sit on the bench."
As expected, the Orioles optioned Richie Lewis to Rochester to make room for Telford. Lewis was recalled Saturday and allowed five runs and eight hits in 2 1/3 innings of that night's 5-3 loss to the Athletics.
It's possible Telford will remain with the team until Aug. 31, when Joe Orsulak is eligible to return from the disabled list. Orsulak was placed on the 15-day disabled list Saturday, retroactive to Aug. 16, when he sprained his left thumb diving for a ball against Kansas City.
When it comes to talking about the problems surrounding Cal Ripken Jr., don't ask Oates his thoughts.
Oates said "enough already" early in his post-game session with the media after he was asked about the Ripken situation.
"Cal's an important player, but right now we can talk about more important things about the Baltimore Orioles than Cal Ripken Jr.," Oates said. "I'm not talking any more about the slump, the streak or the contract. We've got a lot more things to take care of than that."
When pressed a bit later, Oates did say he hopes Ripken's ninth-inning single will help shake him out of a 7-for-47 (.149) slump during his past 12 games.
"I'm sure he feels all the pressure in the world," Oates said. "If the Baltimore Orioles are going to win, he's going to have to contribute because he's a focal point. But he doesn't have to carry the load by himself."
Easy 40th save
How's this for a day's work: Oakland ace reliever Dennis Eckersley entered the game with two out in the ninth inning, two runners on and the A's leading 7-3. Two pitches later, after getting Randy Milligan to fly to center to end the game, Eckersley became the first pitcher to record 40 saves in four different seasons.
Why a save with a four-run lead? Because the potential tying run was on deck when he entered the game. "I'm not going to make light of it. . . it's kind of silly talking about it," said Eckersley of his two-pitch performance. "It wasn't that big a deal."
It is a big deal for the A's, who are 52-0 in games in which Eckersley has appeared. It was the reliever's fifth save in five games this season against the Orioles.
Seeking a series win
In dropping two of three games to the A's, the Orioles failed to win a series for the fifth straight time. The Orioles are 0-4-1 in series play since Aug. 4, when they completed a three-game sweep of Detroit.
The A's continued their series success against the Orioles. The last time the A's lost a series to the Orioles was June 1989, when the Orioles won three of four games. Oakland has won 10 of its past 11 games in Baltimore. The Orioles are 1-5 at home this season against Oakland.
"Randy Milligan's Baseball Festival," held at the Pikesville Hilton on Saturday to benefit city youths, apparently was a big success. Milligan said more than 4,000 people attended and $25,000 was raised during the festival, which featured an autograph session with Sam Horn, Mike Devereaux, Elrod Hendricks, Mark McLemore, Rhodes and Mills from the Orioles, and Dave Stewart from the A's. . . . . Attendance at yesterday's game was 45,479 -- the 41st consecutive home sellout and the 49th of the year.