Baseball '97

March 30, 1997

Armando Benitez

49 Relief pitcher

Contract status: Signed through 1997.

Role: Benitez will be the top right-handed setup man and could get some save situations.

What's up in '97: The Orioles are satisfied that Benitez has the temperament to be a front-line closer, but Randy Myers will open the season in that role. If he falters -- as he did at times late last year -- Benitez could get a piece of his action.

By the numbers: Struck out 20 batters in 14 1/3 innings last year. Had four saves in five opportunities.

X-factor: Durability is still a question for Benitez, who spent part of last season on the disabled list with a strained ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.

Age: 24. Height: 6-4. Weight: 225. Bats: Right. Throws: Right.

Shawn Boskie

32 Starting pitcher

Contract status: Signed through 1997.

Role: Fifth starter, though he may also work in long relief when the schedule allows manager Davey Johnson to skip the fifth spot.

What's up in '97: The Orioles are hoping that Boskie will give them the solid fifth starter they lacked a year ago, but he must sustain his stuff later into the season if he is to keep the fifth spot in the rotation.

By the numbers: Boskie gave up 226 hits in just 189 innings last year for the California Angels, but still managed to parlay his solid start into a winning record (12-11). He made 28 starts and nine relief appearances.

X-factor: Will new pitching coach Ray Miller be able to turn Boskie into a wire-to-wire winner? If so, the Orioles will be very hard to stop.

Age: 30. Height: 6-3. Weight: 200. Bats: Right. Throws: Right.

Rocky Coppinger

27 Starting pitcher

Contract status: Signed through 1997.

Role: No. 4 man in rotation.

What's up in '97: The 23-year-old right-hander is entering his first full season in the Orioles' rotation. He was rushed up to the majors last year -- maybe a half-season ahead of schedule -- but responded very well, so the club has high hopes for him in 1997.

By the numbers: Coppinger's 10 victories were the most by an Orioles rookie since Bob Milacki won 14 in 1989. Milacki, however, pitched the entire season. Coppinger made just 22 starts.

X-factor: Will Coppinger be as effective pitching for a team that doesn't have the same offensive firepower as the year before. He went 10-6 last year, but his 5.18 ERA might not cut it if the Orioles don't provide him with the same kind of offensive support this season.

Age: 23. Height: 6-5. Weight: 225. Bats: Right. Throws: Right.

Scott Erickson

19 Starting pitcher

Contract status: Signed through 1997.

Role: No. 3 starter, behind Mike Mussina and newly acquired Jimmy Key.

What's up in '97: Erickson worked hard this off-season to alter a disturbing trend. He has started slowly the past several years and then closed fast, but not fast enough to be a big winner. In theory, if he gets off to a great start, he could put together a season like the one he had in 1991, when he won 20 games for the Minnesota Twins.

By the numbers: In 1 1/2 seasons with the Orioles, Erickson is a combined 8-1 in September. He is 21-8 over his career in September and October.

X-factor: Erickson changed his off-season workout regimen, reducing his weight work in the hope of creating a "looser more fluid" delivery.

Age: 29. Height: 6-4. Weight: 230. Bats: Right. Throws: Right.

Mike Johnson

56 Relief pitcher

Contract status: Signed through 1997.

Role: Long reliever/spot starter.

What's up in '97: Johnson was selected by the Orioles in the Rule 5 draft and must be kept on the 25-man major-league roster throughout the season or be offered back to the Toronto Blue Jays at half the $50,000 draft price.

By the numbers: He averaged nearly a strikeout an inning as a starter with the Single-A Hagerstown Suns last year.

X-factor: Johnson might get a chance at the fifth-starter role if he pitches well and Shawn Boskie falters.

Age: 21. Height: 6-2. Weight: 175. Bats: Left. Throws: Right.

Scott Kamieniecki

30 Relief pitcher

Contract status: Signed through 1997.

Role: Long reliever/spot starter.

What's up in '97: Kamieniecki is attempting to come back from two years of elbow problems to win a place in the rotation. He signed a minor-league contract and accepted a nonroster invitation to spring training, but pitched well in competition with Shawn Boskie and Rick Krivda for the fifth-starter role.

By the numbers: Kamieniecki made just seven appearances last year after having bone chips removed from his elbow. His overall major-league numbers are respectable.

X-factor: Though his health is the major consideration, Kamieniecki's future with the Orioles depends heavily on Boskie's performance as the fifth starter.

Age: 32. Height: 6-0. Weight: 195. Bats: Right. Throws: Right.

Jimmy Key

29 Starting pitcher

Contract status: Signed through 1998.

Role: No. 2 starter.

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