Johnson trusts Anderson, gets 3-hit reward Sore-ribbed DH also slides feetfirst to manager's relief

Orioles notebook

Mills gives O's a scare

April 03, 1997|By Joe Strauss and Roch Kubatko | Joe Strauss and Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Orioles manager Davey Johnson went against what he admitted was his better judgment yesterday by inserting sore-ribbed Brady Anderson as his designated hitter.

Anderson rewarded his manager with a solid offensive performance, reaching base in four of five plate appearances, including three singles, and scoring the game-winning run in the sixth inning.

Anderson, who was fitted Tuesday with a modified flak jacket obtained from the Ravens, convinced Johnson that he could swing with purpose despite a cracked fifth rib on his left side.

Anderson was injured March 23 in an exhibition against Atlanta and could have been disabled retroactively and missed only five games. Instead, Johnson chose to gamble that Anderson will not aggravate the injury.

History worked in Anderson's favor. Last season he refused to have an appendectomy when doctors suggested otherwise. "Problem was, he was right last year. So if he was right last year, do you want me to punish him this year? I'm not that smart," Johnson said before the game.

Anderson didn't use the modified jacket but experienced less pain than he anticipated during his first at-bat, which ended with his being struck on the left hand.

"I was surprised the first at-bat," Anderson said. "I thought it would hurt more."

Johnson had penciled Anderson's name into Tuesday's unused lineup but remained unconvinced until last year's 50-homer man completed an aggressive round of batting practice yesterday.

"He's not wincing or anything," Johnson said. "I don't think when he swings a bat it's like a knife or anything. I'm sure there's some discomfort, but not enough to keep him from swinging hard."

Anderson did exercise some restraint, suggesting he not play center field. (Jeffrey Hammonds started there instead.) He also promised to slide feetfirst. His closest call came on a sixth-inning infield single when he slid into Royals reliever Jamie Walker. Anderson kept his promise, going into first base feetfirst, something he had consistently done this spring.

Appier digs O's a scare

Royals starter Kevin Appier did more than just dig himself a hole with control problems. He also created quite a divot on the mound -- one that caused Orioles reliever Alan Mills some pain.

Mills, working the seventh inning, felt a twinge in his groin while stepping over a hole at the front of the mound on his follow-through as he struck out Jermaine Dye. Johnson, pitching coach Ray Miller and trainer Richie Bancells rushed out of the dugout to check on Mills, who threw a couple of warm-up pitches and nodded that he could continue.

Mills, who started last season on the disabled list, retired Craig Paquette on a pop-up, then was replaced by left-hander Jesse Orosco.

"I kind of over-extended trying to step over that hole. It was pretty big," he said. "I feel fine, though."

Miller joked that Appier dug out "about 500 pounds of soil in the two innings he was struggling."

Miller said that after the initial scare, Mills "popped the ball real good and the doctor said he's fine."

Royals still blown away

Twenty-four hours after their Opening Day "blowout," Royals officials still were vexed over the Orioles' decision to postpone Tuesday's game without first notifying them, the umpiring crew or the league.

Though he made no formal protest, Royals general manager Herk Robinson phoned American League offices on Tuesday to complain. Royals owner David Glass did him one better. The Wal-Mart executive contacted acting commissioner Bud Selig to rail about the call.

"I didn't understand it then. I don't understand it now and I don't think I'll ever understand it," said Robinson, who recalled taking a pleasant walk to the ballpark Tuesday at about 3 p.m.

Robinson admitted he expected no satisfaction from the league. However, he proposed legislation that would require a club to first seek league approval before postponing a game of significance -- i.e., Opening Day or holidays.

Robinson stopped short of accusing the Orioles of gamesmanship, something initially advanced given that yesterday's starter, Jimmy Key, would have pitched on short rest had the postponement not occurred. "Maybe being from the Midwest we're used to playing in rougher weather than what we experienced yesterday," Robinson said.

The Orioles will pay for the move, however. They will have to face Kansas City ace Appier twice in their first six games. Rather than facing Minnesota on Sunday, Appier (4-6, 2.98 ERA lifetime vs. Baltimore) will face the Orioles on Monday in the Royals' home opener.

Rookie: It's 'unbelievable'

Last year, Mike Johnson was pitching to Single-A batters. Yesterday, the Rule 5 draftee was soaking in everything that came with being in the major leagues, especially the pageantry of Opening Day.

"This is different than anything I've seen before," he said, "especially going out on the field for the first time. Just seeing the spectacle in person, it was unbelievable."

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