Orioles keep Mussina in rotation for now Pitcher must prove he's OK for Tuesday

September 18, 1993|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

MILWAUKEE -- Right-hander Mike Mussina apparently will remain in the Orioles' starting rotation, but his status for Tuesday night's start against the Cleveland Indians is subject to change right up to game time.

"I think I might be able to pitch in Cleveland," said Mussina, who has struggled his past two times out because of soreness in his shoulder and back, "but if it's not possible, it's not possible."

It is very possible, but manager Johnny Oates made sure yesterday that Mussina will be straight with him when the time comes to make a decision Tuesday night. If Mussina does not feel good in the bullpen, he probably won't take the mound.

"We'll just see how it goes," Oates said. "If he starts warming up and it's not right, we'll let somebody else pitch."

Oates is trying to avoid a replay of Wednesday night's game in Boston, when Mussina insisted he was OK and struggled through a very counterproductive 3 2/3 innings. He did not reveal that his shoulder was bothering him until after he left the game.

"We had a little talk today," Oates said. "As a manager, I'd rather have a player who tells me before the game that he can't go than one who tells me after the game that he shouldn't have gone."

The coaching staff may have suspected that Mussina was hurting --since he left his previous start after only six innings with stiffness in his shoulder and back -- but it was not easy to ascertain under the circumstances. Not only did Mussina say he was all right, his mechanics were just faulty enough to explain the lack of effectiveness.

He gave up six runs on nine hits in the Orioles' 6-5 loss to the Red Sox in the deciding game of the three-game series at Fenway Park.

"From where I was sitting, his arm speed was fine," Oates said. "He was rushing, so his lower body was getting out in front of him. When that happens, your arm drops down to compensate and the ball stays up. It wasn't until afterward that he told us that his arm was down there because his shoulder was hurting him."

Mussina has been told that the tendinitis condition in his shoulder and the back soreness will not subside until he stops pitching for an extended period. He received a cortisone shot to lessen the inflammation in his back earlier this season, but said he will sit out the rest of the year before he allows anyone to FTC inject his shoulder.

He said that he felt fine yesterday, but he probably won't test his shoulder again until tomorrow. If he can't throw comfortably, it is possible that he will be scratched at that point.

If that happens, Oates will have to decide among a group of four possible sub starters -- veteran Rick Sutcliffe and rookies Mike Oquist, Kevin McGehee and John O'Donoghue.

Sutcliffe seems like the obvious choice, because of his experience in big-game situations, but he has not thrown a pitch competitively in about a month. O'Donoghue has made one spot start at the major-league level and the other two rookies were starters in the minor leagues, so any one could get the call.

"It would depend on who's been used and who hasn't been used between now and then," Oates said. "Maybe all of them."

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