Mills to get start vs. Blue Jays


March 03, 1994|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Sun Staff Writer

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Right-hander Alan Mills did a double take when he was informed by manager Johnny Oates that he will start against Toronto in tomorrow's opening game of the Grapefruit League.

"He didn't believe me," Oates said.

The assignment usually goes to a member of the projected starting rotation, often to the pitcher who is most likely to be the starter on Opening Day, but Oates has divided the pitching staff into two groups. The second group, which includes most of the projected starters, is scheduled to work in today's intrasquad game.

Mills should be used to playing a variety of roles. He stepped in as the closer last April when Gregg Olson was struggling and he was the projected 1994 closer until the Orioles signed save leader Lee Smith.

Now, it appears he will be back in a late setup role, a role he feels he never left.

"Nobody ever told me that I was the stopper, so in my mind I've never been the stopper," he said. "I didn't assume that just because they didn't sign anybody for a while that I would get that job. It's not my job to make assumptions. It's my job to work hard and make this team."

Mills, 27, appears to be pretty safe. The bullpen is loaded with experienced pitchers, but it looks like the final spots will be contested among the middle relievers. Mills is particularly valuable because he can work in any bullpen role.

Carey cleared

First baseman Paul Carey had to undergo further medical tests after doctors detected a possible heart murmur during a routine physical last week. Carey happily reported yesterday that he passed the follow-up exam and everything is all right.

Poole, Buford come to terms

Left-handed setup man Jim Poole and outfielder Damon Buford agreed to terms on one-year contracts for 1994 and Jeffrey Hammonds officially signed his contract yesterday, leaving only three players still unsigned.

The club has until March 11 to sign Mike Mussina, Manny Alexander and Arthur Rhodes .

Poole seemed happy to have the contract situation resolved, though he didn't get everything he wanted.

"I asked for a comic book clause," he said. "I wanted 10 new titles every month for a year, but Doug [Melvin] said that he didn't want to set that precedent. He did, however, promise me a handshake from Steve Geppi."

Geppi, of course, is the Baltimore comic book magnate who owns a small part of the team.

Powell still waiting

The Orioles had hoped to get a look at their top 1993 draft choice before breaking camp in Sarasota, but Jay Powell has not fully recovered from the elbow soreness he picked up playing in Australia over the winter. He will stay behind at Twin Lakes Park when the major-league team relocates to St. Petersburg this weekend.

Three-game series

The Orioles figure to get very familiar with the St. Louis Cardinals, thanks to what amounts to a three-game series that begins on Saturday.

The clubs play at Al Lang Stadium tomorrow and Sunday, then play a 'B' game there Monday morning.

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