Coppinger is called up from minors Pitcher's role to be decided

Orioles Notebook

Smith demoted to Rochester

June 07, 1996|By Buster Olney and Jason LaCanfora | Buster Olney and Jason LaCanfora,SUN STAFF

To address their desperate need for right-handed pitching, a problem magnified by Roger McDowell's sore shoulder, the Orioles purchased the contract of top prospect Rocky Coppinger from Triple-A Rochester last night.

To make room for Coppinger on the major-league roster, the Orioles demoted outfielder Mark Smith to Rochester. To make room for Coppinger on their 40-man roster, the Orioles designated utility man Brad Tyler for assignment.

Smith played in six games, going 3-for-16 (.188) with one homer and three RBIs. Smith, upset by the demotion, declined to comment after the game.

Coppinger, 22, is 6-4 with a 4.19 ERA for Rochester, with 81 strikeouts in 73 innings. Coppinger ascended quickly through the Orioles' farm system after signing two years ago, jumping from Single-A Frederick to Rochester last year, going 16-3. He was invited to spring training but threw erratically, his control suffering at times.

But Coppinger has improved as the season has progressed. In his last start for the Red Wings, on Tuesday night, Coppinger allowed no walks and five hits over seven innings, and Orioles farm director Syd Thrift raved about how he was able to throw his third-best pitch, a changeup, on 2-2 counts.

Coppinger or Rick Krivda probably will assume Jimmy Haynes' spot in the rotation next Tuesday in Detroit (Haynes moving to the bullpen), but Orioles officials also have talked about developing Coppinger in long relief this season, in support of McDowell and Alan Mills; his sinking fastball is conducive for getting double plays.

"We don't just like the things he does in the box score -- he can throw a straight change on 2-2 for a strike," said Thrift. "He can throw his slider on 2-2 for a strike. He's got great command of those pitches."

Injury updates

Left-handed starter Justin Thompson, perhaps the lone bright spot on a Detroit Tigers pitching staff that could go down as the worst in baseball history, is expected to go on the disabled list with stiffness in his pitching shoulder and is likely to miss at least two starts.

Thompson was examined in Detroit yesterday, but his magnetic resonance imaging results will not be ready until today.

"Justin is really down," Tigers manager Buddy Bell said. "I can handle this from a team standpoint. I'm more concerned with how he feels. I feel bad for him. I mean, this is a kid who just made it to the big leagues."

Thompson, the Tigers' No. 1 draft pick in 1991, made two sparkling starts after being recalled from Triple-A Toledo in May. He did not face the Orioles this series and was not scheduled to face them in Detroit next week, either.

The Orioles are dealing with some injury woes as well, but on a much smaller scale.

In addition to McDowell's shoulder problems, catcher Chris Hoiles has a sore elbow and did not play last night. Outfielder Mike Devereaux is nursing a sore shoulder and did not start last night either.

Around the horn

The Orioles completed the 1996 June draft yesterday, selecting 47 players in all. The draft was deepest at pitcher, but the Orioles still managed to take 20 position players. The final three selections yesterday were Joshua Taylor, a shortstop from Seminole (Okla.) Junior College, and high school outfielders Sean Gilchrist and Chad Anderson, both of Bigfork, Mont. Orioles representatives were scheduled to begin negotiating with their first choice, high school pitcher Brian Falkenborg (second round, 51st overall) at his home in Redmond, Wash., last night. . . . Tigers outfielder Curtis Pride, who grew up in Silver Spring and is 95 percent deaf, was honored in a pre-game ceremony last night. The Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf named him its 1996 Role Model of the Year. . . . Recently signed right-handed reliever Todd Frohwirth will report to Triple-A Rochester on Sunday, and be available to pitch Monday.

Pub Date: 6/07/96

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