Valenzuela to get fresh start at Rochester Pennington to aid bullpen during veteran's absence

April 16, 1993|By Peter Schmuck and Patti Singer

Left-hander Fernando Valenzuela agreed to join the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings so that he can get some work between now and his next appearance in the Orioles' starting rotation on April 27.

In the process, left-handed reliever Brad Pennington earned his first promotion to the major leagues as Valenzuela's temporary replacement.

Manager Johnny Oates met with other front-office officials yesterday afternoon and reached an obvious conclusion. They had been batting around the possibility even before Valenzuela struggled through his first start.

Valenzuela will start for the Red Wings tomorrow against the Richmond Braves, then start for the Orioles in next Thursday's exhibition game in Rochester before returning to the major leagues to face the Chicago White Sox at Comiskey Park.

"It will be good for me to get some work," Valenzuela said yesterday. "I wasn't going to pitch for many days, so this will be best for everyone."

The move made sense for a number of reasons. Valenzuela did not figure to get much work out of the bullpen over the next 11 days, and there have been instances during the past week when Oates could have used an extra pitcher. Pennington will give the Orioles a second left-hander in the bullpen who can pitch in both long and short relief situations.

"It still hasn't hit me," said Pennington, who had to wait an excruciatingly long 15 minutes to hear confirmation of his promotion. "I am happy to be going up. Whatever the move they made, I'm happy it's me going."

Pennington was on the field in Rochester doing his running when manager Bob Miscik summoned him.

"I thought I must have done something wrong," Pennington said.

Miscik did not give Pennington the news himself, and because of a phone problem, the call from Orioles assistant general manager Doug Melvin didn't come for what seemed like forever.

"I kept thinking, 'What are we doing here?' " Pennington said.

A look at Pennington's statistics might lead one to wonder what the Orioles were doing. He pitched in four games for the Red Wings and was 0-1 with one save and a 13.50 ERA. In 3 1/3 innings, he gave up five runs on four hits and three walks, but six of the 10 outs he recorded were on strikeouts.

"He had one inning where he gave up four runs," Oates said, "but we made the decision based on what we saw in spring training, not what he did in Rochester."

Said Pennington: "I'm throwing strikes, I'm doing what I need to do."

Pennington pitched very well in spring training before he was optioned to Rochester on March 30. There was little doubt at that time that he would come up to the major-league roster

during the season.

It will be a very painless minor-league assignment for Valenzuela, who will spend only part of it with the Red Wings. He'll visit Rochester next week along with the rest of the major-league club and then accompany the Orioles to Kansas City and Chicago.

"It was something that we had been discussing for a few days," Oates said. "He had to clear waivers. Once he did, we called him in andshowed him the positives -- for him and for the ballclub -- of him going out and getting some work."

Valenzuela suffered through a rocky 2 1/3 innings in his first Orioles start on Tuesday night at Arlington Stadium, but it was difficult to draw any conclusions from his performance. The night was cold and rainy, and Valenzuela had pitched just one inning out of the Orioles bullpen in the previous two weeks.

"We saw what he could do pitching regularly in spring training," Oates said. "He only got to pitch one inning over the next 12 days or so, and for the next 12 or 13 days, it probably would have been the same thing. This gives us a chance to get him some work and get us an extra pitcher."

STREAK TO END?

The Orioles' consecutive sellout streak, which hit a major-league record 61 games the last time the team played at home, is in jeopardy. As of yesterday, the team had 5,200 tickets remaining for tonight's game against the California Angels, and Orioles spokesman Rick Vaughn was pessimistic about chances for a 62nd straight sellout at Camden Yards. The only salvation might be the weather: Forecasts call for evening showers and thunderstorms that could wash out the game. Tomorrow's 1:35 p.m. game against the Angels probably will sell out. Approximate number of tickets available for coming games:

Date.. .. .. Opp... .. .. .. Tickets

.. .. California.. .. .. 5,200

4/17.. .. .. California.. .. .. 1,000

4/18 .. .. .. California .. .. ..1,500

.. .. .. Chicago .. .. .. ..5,500

4/21 .. .. .. Chicago .. .. .. ..7,000

4/28 .. .. .. Minnesota .. .. .. 7,500

4/29 .. .. .. Minnesota .. .. .. 9,000

4/30 .. .. .. Kansas City .. .. 5,000

5/1 .. .. .. Kansas City .. .. .3,000

5/2 .. .. .. Kansas City .. .. .3,000

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