Clearing space for Rhodes a timely dilemma

BASEBALL

June 20, 1993|By PETER SCHMUCK

The positive events of the past two weeks have left the Orioles to ponder a difficult question.

What do they do when left-hander Arthur Rhodes is ready to come off the disabled list?

It is the kind of question that is met with the usual round of front-office and managerial cliches. General manager Roland Hemond undoubtedly would tell you that it is a nice problem to have, having too many good starting pitchers. Manager Johnny Oates probably would tell you that it is something he doesn't have to worry about yet, though it's obvious he worries about everything well in advance.

Rhodes has been on the disabled list since he underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on May 18. He has resumed throwing off the mound and soon could be ready for a minor-league rehabilitation assignment. That leaves time for the situation to work itself out, but there is every possibility that it won't.

Left-hander Jamie Moyer has moved into the fifth slot in the rotation and pitched well. He might be a four-week flash in the pan, but his consistent performance dating to the start of the season with the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings leaves room to wonder if he has finally found the key to major-league success. In 14 major- and minor-league starts this year, he has given up two runs or fewer 12 times.

No. 4 starter Fernando Valenzuela also has pitched well enough that his place in the rotation is not in doubt, though he doesn't have a lot of victories to show for it.

Rhodes remains a key part of the Orioles' future, but he had a 1-2 record and a 9.36 ERA when he went on the disabled list. Maybe the sore knee had something to do with that. Maybe not. That's something the club will have to consider when he goes down to the minor leagues to work himself back into shape.

Look for the Orioles to time that rehabilitation assignment carefully in an effort to avoid being forced into a decision at the wrong time.

Petty officers of justice

Baseball officials reprimanded the San Francisco Giants and Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday after Pete Rose appeared as a guest on each team's play-by-play broadcast the night before. The clubs were told that such appearances violated the lifetime ban imposed on Rose by the late commissioner Bart Giamatti.

Perhaps you can make a case for that, since the ban prohibited major-league teams from contacting or hiring Rose, but locking him out of the broadcast booth is trivial and pointless. Major League Baseball already has taken away the two things more important to Rose -- the ability to work in baseball in an on-field role and the possibility of being elected to the Hall of Fame.

It also is a little hypocritical. If baseball ownership really was so worried about the integrity of the game, there would be a commissioner in place to deal with this kind of thing.

Not exactly 'The Bird'

The Chicago Cubs called up eccentric rookie pitcher Turk Wendell to make his first major-league start against the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday.

If you're not familiar with the name, you might remember a "This Week In Baseball" segment a couple of years ago that featured him and the strange ritual that he goes through on the mound before and during games.

Wendell brushes his teeth between innings, stuffs his mouth with black licorice, draws three crosses on the back of the mound and waves to the center fielder before each inning, among other things. He even has added something new to his routine, going fishing at 5 a.m. on the morning of the day he is scheduled to pitch.

He has been compared with former Detroit Tigers phenom Mark "The Bird" Fydrich, but the similarities did not extend to his performance against the Cardinals. He gave up five runs on eight hits over 3 2/3 innings on the way to an 11-10 defeat.

Format fight

Baseball owners spent Wednesday and Thursday trying to come to a consensus on how the extra tier of playoffs should be implemented.

It shouldn't be that tough. If the owners are interested in having the new playoff system begin with the four best teams in each league, they will take the two division winners and the two non-winners with the best records, regardless of division. Then they could just seed it by won-lost record -- the division winner with the best record would draw the wild card team with the worst record -- and give the division winners a decisive home-field advantage.

If the owners are more interested in television ratings (and there is plenty of room to believe that they are), they'll take the first two teams in each division and try to avoid the possibility that two teams from the same region end up in the league championship series.

Staff reduction

The Milwaukee Brewers temporarily have gone to a four-man starting rotation in the wake of the knee injury that forced former Oriole Mike Boddicker onto the disabled list.

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