NEW YORK -- Two weeks had passed since Brad Pennington last pitched for the Orioles, which is why the left-handed reliever walked into the office of manager Phil Regan yesterday morning and asked why.
"We talked about things," said Pennington. "I don't know if we got anything settled."
The gist of their conversation was Pennington asking, politely and professionally, about his role and his future with the team, and Regan replying, politely and professionally, that Pennington should work hard and just concentrate on pitching well when he gets the chance.
By coincidence and not by design, Pennington did pitch yesterday, in the eighth inning of the Orioles' 7-2 loss to the New York Yankees.
Pennington's last appearance had been on May 6 against
Toronto, and since that time he had virtually disappeared. Spring training opened with high hopes for Pennington; Regan talked about the left-hander glowingly and he dominated hitters in his early exhibition appearances, helped by an adjustment in his delivery.
But pitching on the second day of the season, against the Minnesota Twins, Pennington gave up two hits and a walk in one-third of an inning. He walked the only hitter he faced on May 3, against Milwaukee, and on May 6, he gave up two walks, a hit and a run against the Blue Jays.
Regan said before yesterday's game that, basically, Pennington has been a victim of circumstances. The Orioles starters have been pitching deeper into games, and since Pennington is a middle reliever, he's not getting much chance. The two members of the Baltimore rotation who have struggled, Sid Fernandez and Arthur Rhodes, are both left-handed, and Regan would prefer bringing in a right-hander after those two to create lineup trouble for the opposition. (Mike Oquist, for instance, followed Fernandez yesterday.)
L "We need to find a way to get him some innings," Regan said.
He made no promises, however, to Pennington, who admitted that he was frustrated by his inactivity. "I would say more concern than frustration," Pennington said.
He was asked if he saw a role for himself. "I don't see one," he said. "But I'm not the manager and he's the one who's making that decision when I'm going to pitch. I don't know if our conversation got that much done."
Pennington, 26, said he is unsure of his future with the team. "If I continue throwing," he said, "I think I can be an integral part of this team. But looking at it from a realistic perspective, I don't think that [it's logical] to carry an extra pitcher who's not going to pitch."
At the beginning of the season, Oquist figured to be the odd man out whenever the Orioles cut their staff from 12 to 11 pitchers. But Oquist has pitched well and Pennington hasn't pitched.
If the Orioles do cut Pennington, they must expose him to waivers to get him to the minors. Because of his value as a hard-throwing left-hander, it's more likely they'll attempt to trade him.
When the Yankees extended their lead from three to five runs in the seventh inning yesterday, Pennington started warming up. He pitched the eighth, walking three to load the bases but striking out two to hold the Yankees scoreless.
"I was so nervous I couldn't see straight," said Pennington, noting his two weeks away from the mound.
After meeting with Regan, Pennington spoke with pitching coach Mike Flanagan, and he said that made him feel better about his situation.
"I hope so," Flanagan said. "I didn't lie to him. Sometimes you just need to know the reality of the situation. I've been there. I've sat in a bullpen for 30 days without pitching, wondering what's going on.
NB "It's a tough situation. He's hungry to get his career going."