Fernando run, but not out of town His Orioles spot secure despite 5-run early exit

April 02, 1993|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Fernando Valenzuela saved his worst for last, but his rocky performance in the Orioles' 10-9 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays is not expected to change the way the pitching staff is configured for the regular season.

Valenzuela is in, and he figures to make his Orioles regular-season debut on April 13 against the Texas Rangers at Arlington Stadium. He earned his place in the starting rotation with a string of 14 scoreless innings in his first five exhibition appearances, but the Blue Jays did not allow him to get out of Florida with his 0.00 ERA intact.

He gave up five runs on seven hits, including a home run to Blue Jays first baseman John Olerud, before leaving the game after three innings -- two innings earlier than expected.

"I didn't do the same things I was able to do in the other games," Valenzuela said. "I felt good, but all of my pitches were up -- especially in the [four-run] third inning. I think everybody has that kind of game once in a while. When that happens, you just have to give the hitters some credit."

Manager Johnny Oates was willing to do that. He said after the game that Valenzuela's final spring performance would have no bearing on the makeup of the Opening Day roster, which is set except for the decision on who will be the reserve catcher.

"I thought he threw the ball well," Oates said. "He just gave up a few runs against a good-hitting ballclub. I didn't have any problem with the way he threw the ball today. I saw them swing and miss a lot of pitches today. For Fernando Valenzuela, it's a matter of location. If he gets it down, they swing and miss. If he gets it up, they hit it. I thought he made some good pitches today."

It was not a particularly well-pitched game from any angle. Valenzuela hooked up with Blue Jays veteran Jack Morris in a battle of the old masters, but it deteriorated into an offensive free-for-all that ended when the Orioles and Blue Jays traded three-run home runs in their final at-bats.

Yesterday's performance notwithstanding, it was an impressive spring for Valenzuela, who has not pitched in a regular-season game at the major-league level since 1991. He was invited to Orioles training camp this year as a non-roster player, and is expected to be placed on the club's major-league roster on Sunday.

Club officials have not announced officially that he is on the team, but the roster cuts that were announced on Wednesday left only nine rostered pitchers on the major-league squad. Valenzuela will become No. 10 when he signs a contract this weekend.

The contract already has been worked out. Valenzuela agreed in principle to the terms before he arrived in camp on Feb. 27. It is believed to call for a relatively small base salary and include incentive clauses based on game appearances.

Valenzuela has not been told that he has made the team. That's not the way it is done. He found out when he was not called into the manager's office when the bulk of the cuts were announced on Wednesday. But he is hesitant to assume that he has won a job.

"We'll have to wait and see what happens," he said. "Right now, I'm still on the team, but I'll have to wait the next couple of days and see what the decision is."

He obviously would like to have finished the spring the way he started it, but he chose to look at the entire body of his exhibition work. He pitched 17 innings and gave up five runs on 16 hits, four of those runs in the third inning of yesterday's game.

"I pitched six times and did OK in five of them," Valenzuela said. "I think that's pretty good. It probably looks a little bit bad because this happened in the last game of the spring, but I still feel good. Like I said before, I still have a lot of confidence. I don't put a lot of emphasis on what I did today. Next time, I need to do better. I need to keep the ball down more."

The Orioles could not have expected much more from a pitcher who fell out of the major leagues two years ago after shoulder problems eroded his effectiveness. Valenzuela pitched 260 innings in the Mexican leagues over the past year, but he admitted to being surprised at how well the past month has gone.

"The spring has been like a season to me," he said, "because I had to do well to make the team. But I didn't expect to do this well. My arm is better now. It's stronger than it was in 1991. I think I did a good job. That's all I can say."

Today's exhibition

Teams: Orioles vs. Pittsburgh Pirates

Site: Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Time: 3:05 p.m.

TV: HTS

Radio: WBAL (1090 AM)

Tickets: Approximately 19,000 available

Weather: Partly cloudy, 30 percent chance of showers, high 65.

%Tentative starting lineups

Orioles.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..Pirates

Brady Anderson, LF.. .. .. .. Al Martin, LF

Mike Devereaux, CF.. .. .. .. .Jay Bell, SS

Cal Ripken, SS... .. .. .. .John Wehner, CF

Harold Baines, DH.. .. .. .. .Jeff King, 3B

Glenn Davis, 1B.. .. .. .Orlando Merced, RF

Chris Hoiles, C.. .. .. .. ..Dave Clark, DH

Leo Gomez, 3B.. .. .. .. ...Kevin Young, 1B

Luis Mercedes, RF.. .. ..Mike LaValliere, C

Harold Reynolds, 2B.. .. .Carlos Garcia, 2B

Mike Mussina, P.. .. .. .. .. .Dave Otto, P

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