Jays catch break as Finley moves up start Mussina of old provides big lift

September 02, 1993|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Staff Writer

ANAHEIM, CALIF — ANAHEIM, Calif. -- As it turns out, the Orioles aren't getting as much of a break in the pitching matchups against the California Angels as they thought.

Originally, left-handers Chuck Finley and Mark Langston were not scheduled to pitch in this series. That would have meant both would face the Toronto Blue Jays, who have not fared well against left-handers, this weekend.

However, Angels manager Buck Rodgers has acceded to the wishes of his staff aces to keep them on a strict five-day rotation. That means Finley (14-10, 3.10) will start against the Orioles tonight instead of newcomer Joe Magrane (0-1, 4.66).

Because of Monday's day off, Rodgers had planned to give both an extra day of rest before their next starts. But Finley and Langston talked him out of it.

"Buck told us that he was going to give us an extra day's rest this week," said Finley, "but we told him we shouldn't be moved back. We feel fine, and want to keep pitching on our regular turn. We want to keep going strong until the season stops."

Finley and Langston also have a reasonable ulterior motive. By working every fifth day, each figures to get an extra start between now and the end of the season. They each have an

outside chance of winning 20 games this year, something that hasn't been accomplished by an Angels pitcher since Nolan Ryan went 22-16 in 1974.

In his last start against the Orioles Aug. 24, Finley limited the Orioles to two hits in eight innings but lost a 1-0 decision to Jaime Moyer.

With Finley facing the Orioles, Langston now is scheduled to face the Blue Jays tomorrow, with Magrane moved back to Saturday's game.

Mussina of old returns

Mike Mussina's strong 8 2/3 innings Tuesday night provided theOrioles with their most encouraging piece of news in weeks.

"That is the best he's thrown in quite a while," Johnny Oates said after Mussina (13-5) allowed the Angels only five hits and struck out seven in an 8-2 victory.

It was also the latest Mussina had lasted in a game since going the distance May 31 in a 3-1 win over the Oakland Athletics.

L "I'm on my way, I think," said the 24-year-old right-hander.

"One time out certain things have worked, then the next time they don't, but other things do. The fastball and changeup have been there all along, but the curveball and slider come and go."

There is one other facet of Mussina's game that is constant -- his control. Rodgers, the Angels manager, was particularly impressed with what he saw Tuesday night.

"That was everything we talk about in command pitching," Rodgers said of Mussina's performance, which included six straight strikeouts in the fourth and fifth innings. "He was up and down, in and out. He had great command of his pitches."

It was only the third start since July 21 for Mussina, who was on the disabled list with a strained muscle in his right shoulder.

"It's kind of like April for me," said Mussina, who is 2-1 with a 2.78 ERA and has allowed only 17 hits in 22 2/3 innings since returning. "I'm playing the catch-up game after all the injuries."

Perhaps the best indication of all that Mussina is back to where he was the first two months of the season, is his post-game reaction. "Everything was normal," he said. "I feel good."

Gonzo on way out?

Ex-Oriole Rene Gonzales probably won't have his contract renewed next year. The Angels hold an option on his services for $900,000, but they also have a $150,000 buyout clause.

Going into the season, Gonzales was projected as the Angels' regular third baseman. But he has been used most often in the utility role he once filled for the Orioles.

"This has been one of the strangest years I've ever had," said Gonzales, who had two doubles and two RBI during the Angels' 6-1 win over Milwaukee Sunday. "In the past it was always cut and dried -- you're a starter or a utility man.

"This year, I've never been able to know what my role is. I haven't been able to play as much as I wanted to, and it's frustrating. I can accept the situation, but that doesn't mean I have to be satisfied with it."

The Angels apparently no longer look at Gonzales, who will turn 33 tomorrow, as a potential starter, and don't want to pay $900,000 for a role player. "I would like to have him back, he's good for this club, but at what price, I don't know," said Rodgers.

"You can't pay a lot of money to utility players and I could not in all good conscience tell him that if he came back next year, it would be as a regular."

The Angels reportedly will exercise their buyout rights with both Gonzales and designated hitter Chili Davis and then try to re-sign both at lower salaries. Davis will make $2.4 million this year, including $650,000 for making 500 plate appearances, and could make as much as $3.1 million next year.

Davis is hitting only .235, but has 19 home runs and 91 RBI, a pace that would produce 24 homers and 112 RBI.

"I know if they really want me back they'll make an offer appealing enough so I'll come back," said Davis, 33, whose buyout figure is $500,000. "I don't expect to make $3-4 million a year, but I'd like to get a few more years in and see what happens."

Gonzales obviously doesn't have the same leverage as Davis. "I don't know what will happen," said Gonzales, who is hitting .265, with a .362 on-base percentage that is the second best on the team. "I don't think it's fair if I have to take a pay cut."

Gomez, Hammonds return

Leo Gomez and Jeffrey Hammonds joined the Orioles last night, and both could start tonight.

Oates said Hammonds is one of the candidates to be the designated hitter against Finley, with Harold Baines getting the night off.

Gomez, who didn't arrive until shortly before game time last night, might play third base, with Tim Hulett shifting to second base.

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