Call-ups, playoff roster decisions loom Malone says only those who can help will get call

August 28, 1996|By Jason LaCanfora | Jason LaCanfora,SUN STAFF

The Orioles have reached a delicate stage in their push for the playoffs. Decision time.

This Sunday, rosters expand and minor-leaguers can be called up by the handful. However, the Orioles also must set their playoff roster by Sunday, deciding which players will be eligible to play in October, should they qualify for the playoffs.

Club officials already have begun discussing who will be called up to help in September and who will placed on the playoff roster.

"I guess right now, we're just more worried about getting to the playoffs," assistant general manager Kevin Malone said. "I think the key for us now is trying to plan for postseason play, but making sure our priority is getting into them first. We're trying not to get ahead of ourselves."

Malone said the Orioles are going to be very cautious not to disturb team chemistry with September call-ups. He said between four and eight players will be promoted for specific purposes, such as base-stealing ability or right-handed hitting, rather than calling up a large number of players so they can get a feel for the majors.

"We're looking at the whole organization for players with an outstanding tool or tools that can help us going into the postseason," Malone said. "Then we'll look at how much they would play or contribute. Often times when you expand rosters, you've got a lot more bodies, a lot more distractions and it's harder to get your work done.

"We'll bring guys to the big leagues that can help us win games, not just get a feel for it."

The Orioles' postseason roster won't necessarily mirror the current roster either.

The most obvious difference is in the pitching staff. In a short series, only three starters will be needed, so one Orioles starter is likely bound for bullpen duty. Pitching coach Pat Dobson said he believes the Orioles' use of a four-man rotation has their pitchers better prepared for postseason duty, a possible advantage over other playoff teams.

Dobson said he would like three starters, two relievers/starters capable of going at least five innings, four middle relievers/setup guys, and a closer. That's 10 pitchers, two less than the Orioles are carrying. Dobson also wants a mix of hard throwers and off-speed pitchers.

"When you set the postseason roster, you've got to make sure you get the guys right in your bullpen that you might need there," Dobson said. "You have to look at which guys are #F pitching the best to decide who the No. 3 [starter] is. The four guy will be the guy you can use out of the 'pen."

Some decisions already are made. The Orioles will go with two catchers, Mark Parent and Chris Hoiles, but must decide among utility infielder Manny Alexander and Bill Ripken, and a host of outfielders, including Mark Smith, Jeffrey Hammonds and Tony Tarasco, who all are on the disabled list. Alexander, for example, plays very rarely, and could be left off the playoff roster in place of anther player.

"I don't think our decisions will be tremendously difficult, because we've been going with the same eight or nine guys all year long," third base coach Sam Perlozzo said. "The big decisions will be, do we want a speed guy or a big bat off the bench? We can slide those guys on the DL in and out at the end of September, so we can wait and go with the hot hand."

Pub Date: 8/28/96

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