Cold fact: weather chills players, fans Winter-like conditions a continuing nuisance

Orioles notebook

April 11, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

Baseball is known as the Summer Game, but the conditions for the Orioles-Indians game last night were winter leftovers -- temperatures ranging around 35-40 degrees -- and players and fans adjusted accordingingly.

Right fielder Tony Tarasco tried on a University of Michigan ski cap. Players jammed their throwing hands inside their back pockets when they weren't throwing. Second baseman Roberto Alomar drew his arms up his sleeves during infield practice. Fans brought blankets, umbrellas, and jackets suited for ski slopes. An ice cream vendor walked through the stands, uninterrupted.

Closer Randy Myers wouldn't say whether he intended to wear short sleeves, as he did Opening Day. Would you rather wear short sleeves, he asked, or a long undershirt heavy with cold sweat?

Many of the Orioles bundled up for batting practice, wearing turtlenecks and jackets. Bobby Bonilla ducked into the dugout and pulled his collar over his mouth and lower jaw.

Not a bad night to be a designated hitter, somebody told him. He had the option of staying in the warm clubhouse between at-bats.

"I'd still rather be playing [in the field]," Bonilla said. "It's still like pinch-hitting four times."

Reliever Roger McDowell said, "I'm going to dress like a hunter. I'll go sit in my deer stand with my orange camouflage on."

Somebody turned on a portable heater underneath the stands, in the runway behind the dugout. Along with warmth, however, the heater seemed to be giving off noxious fumes.

"Can you smell that?" one player said. "I hope they turn that thing off or we all may be gassed."

A hard, cold rain prematurely ended the Indians' infield practice about half an hour before the scheduled game time, and the grounds crew wrestled against the wind to lay down the tarp. But the rain ended, and the game started 17 minutes late.

It was nasty, but catcher Gregg Zaun remembered worse. Wausau vs. Appleton, when Zaun played in the Single-A Midwest League. "Fourteen degrees wind-chill factor," he said. "You don't have heaters in A-ball in wide-open dugouts."

Manny Alexander passed by at that moment, and Zaun asked him if he remembered that game.

"Oh, yeah," Alexander said. "It was freezing. You couldn't open your eyes."

Orioles manager Davey Johnson talked with Indians DH Eddie Murray on Tuesday night, when the first game was postponed because of rain and snow.

"Eddie said that if they had played, it would have been the nicest night they've had," Johnson said.

The Indians' home opener was postponed by snow.

Benitez decision due

Armando Benitez will throw in the bullpen before tonight's game, and if his elbow doesn't bother him, he could be given clearance to pitch this weekend.

Benitez is suffering from a strained flexor muscle adjacent to his pitching elbow, and after pitching an inning against the Minnesota Twins on Saturday (no hits, three strikeouts), the joint really bothered him.

Benitez said he feels much better now, and after the pitcher was examined yesterday, Johnson said, "The report I got from the doctor is not as gloomy as I was led to believe."

But if Benitez is hurting while he throws today, the Orioles might place him on the disabled list and call up a pitcher from Triple-A Rochester.

"I want to make sure there's not a problem with accelerating the injury," Johnson said. "The key here is how he feels tomorrow.

"He's throwing the ball really well right now. You don't want to keep him off the hill."

Around the horn

Pitcher Alan Mills felt good yesterday, the day after throwing for 12 minutes, and Johnson said doctors have turned him over to the coaching staff, with clearance to pitch him every other day. Mills will throw for about eight more days, and if he continues to improve, he'll pitch to hitters in simulated action. After that, he'll be given a minor-league rehabilitation assignment -- perhaps at the team's training facility in Sarasota, Fla., Johnson said, where Mills can pitch in warm weather and be close to his home in Lakeland, Fla. . . . The Orioles have sold 3.1 million tickets for this season. Some 8,700 tickets remain for tomorrow night, the first of the three-game series with Minnesota, 6,600 for Saturday afternoon and 7,300 for Sunday afternoon. . . . Tuesday's rainout jumbled the Orioles' rotation: Mike Mussina will pitch tomorrow against Minnesota, and stay with his normal four days' rest, and Kent Mercker was bumped back to Saturday. Jimmy Haynes will pitch Sunday. . . . Cal Ripken was 4-for-4 with runners in scoring position before flying out in the first inning last night with two men on.

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