Rainy-day O's postpone Benitez move, too Johnson leans toward putting reliever on DL

April 10, 1996|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

The early-season showdown between the American League champion Cleveland Indians and the streaking Orioles was put on hold yesterday when persistent rain prompted Orioles officials to postpone the opener of the two-game series. It will be made up tomorrow.

"It's just as well," manager Davey Johnson said. "I hate a wet track, because you risk somebody getting hurt. It's good we've got an open date. It should be dry tomorrow [today]."

The Orioles spent some of their unexpected free time agonizing over what to do about reliever Armando Benitez, who will be out at least five days with a sore flexor muscle in his right elbow.

Benitez has been told not to throw until at least Sunday, so club officials met last night to discuss whether to put him on the 15-day disabled list and call someone up to take his place on the 11-man pitching staff. Assistant general manager Kevin Malone said afterward that the club will wait a day or two and re-evaluate Benitez before making that decision.

Johnson appeared to be leaning toward putting him on the DL, but the situation was complicated by the fact that the top candidate to replace Benitez in a setup role -- Keith Shepherd -- is not on the club's 40-man roster.

That means the Orioles would have to outright a rostered player to promote him to the major leagues. The other option is right-hander Brian Sackinsky, who was scratched from yesterday's scheduled start for the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings because there was a possibility he would be called up.

"What we don't want to do is exacerbate the problem," Johnson said. "We don't want to use him and have a flare-up."

Benitez said yesterday he first felt the twinge in his elbow throwing a split-fingered fastball against the New York Mets in his final spring training appearance. Twice since then, he has experienced the same discomfort at the release point of that pitch, so he has been told to eliminate it -- at least temporarily -- from his repertoire.

He pitched an inning Saturday night in Minnesota and struck out three, but continued to experience discomfort.

The Orioles have been proceeding carefully with left-hander Arthur Rhodes, so Johnson does not relish the prospect of trying to baby two relievers, especially now that the rainout has squeezed the schedule. The club has just one more off day (Monday) between now and May 2.

"I definitely don't want to be in a situation where I've got to take care of two guys," Johnson said. "But the main thing is what's best for Armando."

The Orioles are familiar with the troublesome nature of this kind of injury. Ben McDonald tried to pitch through a sore elbow flexor in 1991 and ended up on the disabled list twice.

NOTES: Right-hander Alan Mills threw for 12 minutes and will continue to throw every other day for the next week or so. Dobson speculated that Mills may be ready to throw a simulated game in nine days and then go out on an injury rehabilitation assignment. "He threw real well today," Dobson said. . . . For fans who can't make the game tomorrow, the rainout could cost them their only chance to see the Indians this season, since the four-game series July 25-28 is sold out. . . . The day off should help a few banged-up players. Reliever Roger McDowell and catcher Chris Hoiles have tender hamstrings, but their activities would not have been restricted if the game had been played.

Orioles tonight Opponent: Cleveland Indians

Site: Oriole Park

Time: 7: 35

TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Indians' Jack McDowell (0-1, 2.84) vs. Orioles' David Wells (1-0, 1.29)

Tickets: 2,300 remain

Ticket policy Fans holding tickets for last night's postponed game between the Orioles and Cleveland Indians at Camden Yards can use them to attend the makeup game tomorrow night at 7: 35. They also can be exchanged for any of eight future games:

April 16: Boston, 7: 35 p.m.

April 30: New York, 7: 35 p.m.

June 18: Texas, 7: 35 p.m.

July 16: Toronto, 7: 35 p.m.

July 24: Minnesota, 7: 35 p.m.

Aug. 12: Milwaukee, 7: 35 p.m.

Aug. 14: Milwaukee, 3: 05 p.m.

Sept. 11: Chicago, 7: 35 p.m.

Exchanges for the last six games must be made by June 1.

Pub Date: 4/10/96

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