Orioles hand Boskie 5th spot in rotation Friday's solid showing cinches it for Johnson

March 24, 1997|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- When the Orioles signed right-hander Shawn Boskie in December, it was with the intent of having him fill the last spot in the rotation. But it wasn't until Friday night that he sealed the deal.

Boskie pitched his best game of the spring despite wet conditions, allowing only a walk over the last two innings of his start against the New York Mets. That was enough for manager Davey Johnson to name him the fifth starter yesterday.

"When he showed me he could throw the ball like he did the other night, it was a no-brainer," Johnson said.

Boskie, who will turn 30 on Friday and has a 42-54 career record, will pitch Wednesday against the Mets and Sunday against the St. Louis Cardinals at Camden Yards in the last exhibition game.

His main competition for a starting job were free agent Scott Kamieniecki and left-hander Rick Krivda. Kamieniecki, coming back from elbow surgery, pitched well until Friday, when he allowed six hits and two runs in two innings. Krivda, whose spring ERA was 11.25, must inform the club today whether he will declare for free agency or accept a minor-league assignment if he clears waivers.

"It's good to go into the season in the rotation, but the work is still ahead," said Boskie, who has a 4.91 ERA in 11 innings after going 12-11 with a 5.32 ERA and making 28 starts last year with the California Angels.

"I never felt like I made a cut-and-dry decision for them. I didn't throw the ball bad, but I never really was good. The last game, I finally felt stronger physically and had a little better intensity out there.

"Lord willing, I'll pitch 200 innings and win 10 or more games. If I do that, that's kind of the job description for the No. 5 slot."

Boskie has no reservations about pitching in hitter-friendly Camden Yards, where he gave up a home run to Cal Ripken in 1995 on the night Ripken broke Lou Gehrig's consecutive-games streak. He set an Angels record by allowing 40 home runs last season.

"If you throw quality pitches and pitch with good intensity and good initiative, you're going to win. If you give up a home run here or there, who cares?" he said.

Kamieniecki, 32, appears headed to the bullpen, though he hasn't been told he has made the club. Barring a trade or change of heart, Johnson said, he's leaning toward taking 13 pitchers north -- an unusually high total for this time of year -- and that leaves room for the former New York Yankee.

"I just asked him if the opportunity comes, if I just get a chance to pitch," said Kamieniecki, who has given up 15 hits and five earned runs in 11 innings (4.09 ERA). "I came here to make the club. If it's up to me, I want to start. Just because I'm not starting right now doesn't mean I won't start down the road. This happened a lot of times when I was with New York."

Said Johnson: "I liked what [Kamieniecki] did. I don't want to take a chance on losing that depth. I've never had this many pitchers."

He will have some problems fitting them all in and still maintaining his depth in the outfield. Keeping 13 pitchers could seem to leave Tony Tarasco, Jeffrey Hammonds and Jerome Walton fighting for one spot.

"I'll try to figure out how I can keep them, too," Johnson said, smiling. "I don't want to lose that depth either. Looking at the first five days, without [Roberto] Alomar's left-handed bat, I'm looking at adding a left-handed bat. But I've got a couple guys who are injured, so I may not want to take a chance of breaking [camp] with the injured guys."

Walton, who missed some time with a strained abdominal muscle, could land on the disabled list, even though he started Saturday at Port St. Lucie, had two hits and pronounced himself fit. And so could Pete Incaviglia, who strained his left hamstring while running out a ground ball Saturday and was walking gingerly yesterday.

"Those are possibilities. That was discussed, too," said Johnson, who met earlier in the day with general manager Pat Gillick and head trainer Richie Bancells.

If Incaviglia goes on the disabled list, he could return with Alomar when the Orioles' second baseman completes his five-game suspension, Johnson said.

Johnson also said he'll probably take 29 players north, including infielder Kelly Gruber, who is coming back from fusion surgery to repair a disk in his neck and hasn't played in the majors since 1993. Gruber, batting .210 (8-for-38), could be asked to accept an assignment to Triple-A Rochester. He said yesterday that he hadn't discussed the possibility with anyone in the organization.

Spring break

What the Orioles did yesterday: Watched left-hander Jimmy Key get banged around for the second straight time, then rallied to beat the Atlanta Braves, 9-7, for their third straight win. Cal Ripken, Chris Hoiles and Tony Tarasco had two RBIs each. Atlanta starter Greg Maddux didn't fare much better than Key, giving up 11 hits and six runs in 5 2/3 innings.

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