Shin injury sends M. Smith to DL Right-hander Stephenson called up from Triple-A

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

July 26, 1996|By Jason LaCanfora | Jason LaCanfora,SUN STAFF

The Orioles placed outfielder Mark Smith on the disabled list yesterday and called up pitcher Garrett Stephenson from Triple-A Rochester.

Smith injured his left shin Monday night when he fouled a ball off his leg. He left that game immediately and has not played since. He was placed on the 15-day DL, retroactive to Monday.

Smith was on crutches for two days with a bone bruise but was walking with a limp yesterday and began working out. The injury comes at an inopportune time for Smith, who was 7-for-13 in his past five games after a 4-for-28 slump.

"I think they put me on the DL to protect me," Smith said. "It feels a lot better today, but when I step on it wrong it sends a chill right through my entire leg. But at least I'm able to put some pressure on it now. I think I'll be all right in a week or so."

Stephenson, a starter with the Red Wings, will begin his first stint in the majors in the bullpen, and his arrival gives the Orioles 11 pitchers on the roster. Manager Davey Johnson said it's possible the right-hander could earn a spot in the rotation if he excels in relief.

Stephenson, 24, was born in Takoma Park and played high school and amateur ball in Frederick and Washington counties. He was 5-5 with a 4.50 ERA before the recall in his first Triple-A season and had thrown three straight complete games, yielding nine hits and five walks and striking out 19. He had a 1.44 ERA in those three starts.

Stephenson arrived in Baltimore last evening and Johnson said he is looking forward to having the extra arm in the bullpen. Relivers Armando Benitez, Roger McDowell and Arthur Rhodes are on the DL.

"I don't know how many times in the last week I had to leave somebody out there and couldn't get anybody up," Johnson said. "Hopefully, this will alleviate the problem."

Stephenson made his major-league debut last night, relieving Rocky Coppinger with two outs in the fifth inning.

Polonia settles in

Outfielder Luis Polonia said he's finally comfortable with his part-time role, and it's showing on the field.

Polonia is hitting .308 (16-for-52) in his past 19 games. He also has three ninth-inning pinch hits in his past 12 games. Polonia said the results are a product of his improved mental state.

"I'm swinging pretty well," Polonia said. "I can say that it's all mental. I wasn't thinking right before. I was putting too much pressure on myself. I understand my role now. I'm not trying to fight it anymore."

Polonia said he comes to the park every day expecting to start, but if he doesn't he changes his preparation. He still takes regular batting and fielding practice, but adapts his program from there.

Polonia said that once the game starts he hits in the indoor batting cage and works out in the gym while watching the game on TV, waiting to see if a situation arises in which he'll be needed, as when Smith left the game Monday.

"I know I have to be ready for the seventh, eighth, ninth inning," Polonia said. "I know I'm going to have to pinch hit and run. I don't want to pull a hamstring. I just check the scenario and my mind is focused. When Smith went down, I was ready for that."

Hoiles hot -- finally

Chris Hoiles knew he would heat up in the second half.

Weeks ago the catcher promised he would get hot, and now that time has come. Hoiles had hit safely in 13 of his past 16 games before last night, going .283 (15-for-53) in that stretch and raising his average to .233. He also had homered in four of his past nine games.

"It's something that happens every year," said Hoiles.

"I knew it was going to come, it was just a matter of when. I have no idea of why it happens. If I did I'd get started around April 1."

Hoiles has 16 home runs and is again on pace to hit more than 20. Hoiles said he's less concerned with his low average than he is with his power numbers. That doesn't mean he's pleased with being a second-half player, and Hoiles said the consequences of his delayed productivity are heavy.

"You never get comfortable with it," Hoiles said. "This year was the worst. First they wanted to trade me, then they put me on waivers. I want to stay here. This is the place I got my first chance. I'd like to stay here and finish the last three years on my contract. But this year has been the hardest."

Around the horn

The Orioles won't move to a four-man rotation until the starters approve the move. All starters but Mike Mussina have given their approval, team sources said. . . . The Orioles signed shortstop Augie Ojeda, their 13th-round pick in the June draft. Ojeda is playing with the U.S. Olympic team in Atlanta after playing at the University of Tennessee. . . . The Orioles signed pitchers Matt Grott and Will Flynt and assigned them to Rochester.

The Orioles will honor former manager Earl Weaver, who will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Aug. 4, in a pre-game ceremony tomorrow. Fans should arrive at Camden Yards by 12: 15 p.m. for the ceremony. . . . Right-hander Americo Peguero of the rookie-level Bluefield Orioles was named Appalachian League Player of the Week. He combined on a no-hitter last Wednesday, going seven innings with three walks and 10 strikeouts.

Left-hander Kent Mercker, traded by the Orioles this week to the Indians for Eddie Murray, started for the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons last night, giving up one hit (a home run), one earned run and two walks with four strikeouts in four innings. . . . Indians second baseman Carlos Baerga was scratched from the lineup with a strained left groin but was inserted in the fifth inning.

Pub Date: 7/26/96

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