'No excuses' Mills takes demotion in stride


June 21, 1995|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,Sun Staff Writer

The revolving door leading into the Orioles clubhouse at Camden Yards took another spin yesterday.

Out walked reliever Alan Mills, in street clothes and with Triple-A Rochester his destination. And in strolled left-hander Arthur Rhodes, who made his first start last night since being sent down May 26.

For everyone keeping score at home, that makes 10 roster moves this month. And another is coming, with a pitcher going down and a position player taking his place.

The latest transaction shouldn't have come as a surprise considering the numbers Mills had posted -- 23 innings, 30 hits, 18 walks, 16 strikeouts and a 7.43 ERA -- and Sunday's trade of outfielder Andy Van Slyke to the Philadelphia Phillies for setup man Gene Harris, a hard-throwing right-hander like Mills.

Because he lacks five years of major-league service and wasn't out of options, Mills couldn't refuse the assignment and become a free agent. He learned this after talking with manager Phil Regan, general manager Roland Hemond and assistant GM Frank Robinson, a meeting that lasted about seven minutes.

He later spoke again with Hemond and Robinson in the trainer's room and came out in better spirits than earlier in the day, when he had to remove his practice jersey and begin packing -- a more common sight in the Orioles clubhouse lately than card playing.

"They had to make a move and I have an option left, and I kind of figured when they got Gene Harris that pretty much makes me expendable," he said. "I'm not leaving here thinking I won't come back."

Mills will join the starting rotation at Rochester. "We feel he just has to work on a regular basis," Hemond said. "We're going to start him there so that he can work on his pitches and be extended.

"He'll be fine."

Unlike Brad Pennington and Matt Nokes before him, Mills chose his words carefully after learning of the club's decision and wasn't critical of Regan or the organization. He also wouldn't give any reasons why he had struggled, saying, "I don't make excuses."

He also wasn't making enough good pitches.

Mills threw three solid innings in Sunday's 10-8 loss to Detroit, allowing two hits, an unearned run and striking out three, but that came on the heels of another disastrous outing the previous night.

He was summoned in the seventh inning with the score tied, 3-3, two runners on and Juan Samuel batting. Mills tried to blow a fastball past a known fastball hitter, and the result was a two-run double and a 5-3 loss that had Regan questioning Mills' pitch selection and placement.

Another low point came last Tuesday at Cleveland, when Mills surrendered four runs in one-third of an inning.

Hemond said he didn't believe Mills had been overworked, even though he had warmed up or pitched in 19 of 21 games before Terry Clark and Mark Lee were added to the roster June 8. Before that, Regan had said he wanted to give Mills some time off.

Yesterday, Regan told reporters that Mills needs to "pitch himself back to where he should be," and to "get his rhythm back." He also said Mills has to "relocate his fastball and get his breaking ball over."

"His velocity is good. There's nothing wrong with his arm. I don't think there's any doubt he'll be back here before long," Regan said.

Last season, his third with the Orioles, Mills was 3-3 with two saves and a 5.16 ERA while appearing in a career-high 47 games. Called up from Rochester in 1992 after being acquired in a trade with the New York Yankees, he went 10-4 that year with two saves and a 2.61 ERA. As a reliever -- he also made three starts -- Mills held opponents to a .198 average, sixth lowest in the American League.

He got off to a slow start last season, going 0-2 with a 16.00 ERA (including five home runs) in his first nine innings. But he bounced back, after May 13 by winning three of four decisions with a 2.48 ERA.

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