Pain-free Mussina to get ball Friday Boskie is pushed back, keeping ace on 4 days' rest

Orioles Notebook

April 09, 1997|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Orioles' starting rotation took a significant step toward order yesterday morning when Mike Mussina threw pain-free for 20 minutes and was awarded Friday's start against the Texas Rangers.

Mussina will move ahead of Shawn Boskie in the rotation, thereby maintaining his preference for starting on four days' rest. Tuesday's performance was considered important given Mussina's delayed first start, a four-inning effort against the Rangers on Sunday in which he allowed seven runs (six earned), and two walks. Mussina admitted to pitching tentatively at times, but yesterday threw without restraint.

"It went real well. He did everything he needed to do and more," said pitching coach Ray Miller, who supervised the day-off workout at Kauffman Stadium. "Mike's such a perfectionist, he wanted to be comfortable with everything, so he went an extra five minutes."

Routine has long been important to Mussina; hence, the importance of the adjustment. He was displeased when manager Davey Johnson went to a four-man rotation late last season, faltering in his push for a 20-win season.

Mussina was dissatisfied with his fastball during Sunday's loss, which came six days after a bone spur in his elbow led to his removal as Opening Day starter. His remaining hurdles are more psychological than physical, as he conceded that concern over his elbow hindered Sunday's approach.

Encouraging news didn't stop with Mussina. Rocky Coppinger continued his recovery from shoulder stiffness by also throwing for 15 minutes. It was the second time Coppinger had thrown from a mound since he reluctantly went on the disabled list March 31. He is scheduled to throw again tomorrow and could come off the DL next week.

With the rotation carrying a 6.13 ERA into its second turn, the Orioles still seek a semblance of consistency. Through six games, no starter has pitched more than six innings. Mussina, and Boskie failed to reach the fifth; Scott Kamieniecki needed 81 pitches to clear 4 2/3 innings. Jimmy Key has both of the staff's quality starts. Kamieniecki, tonight's starter against the Kansas City Royals, made only one spring training start and hadn't gone beyond three innings until his April 3 start in place of the disabled Coppinger.

Lineup remains top-heavy

The Orioles terrorized opponents in 1996 because their lineup offered no weaknesses. While six games is hardly a reliable yardstick, the club is still waiting for a show of force by the bottom third of the order.

Until Brady Anderson returns to center field, Jeffrey Hammonds, catcher Chris Hoiles and shortstop Mike Bordick should occupy the Nos. 7, 8 and 9 spots. None has yet found himself at the plate. The trio enters tonight's game a collective 8-for-63 (.127) with no home runs and two RBIs. Hoiles is struggle for contact, having struck out six times in his past 10 at-bats. Bordick broke a 1-for-22 slide with a ninth-inning, two-out double Monday and scored a tying run on Jeff Reboulet's subsequent single. Hammonds has failed to carry over his impressive spring training and finds himself hitless in his past 13 at-bats.

That the Orioles have scored 32 runs is largely due to Anderson and Cal Ripken. The duo is a combined 24-for-46 (.522) with eight runs, four home runs and 12 RBIs. Ripken is the only Oriole to have hit safely in each game.

While held without an extra-base hit until doubling in Monday's first at-bat, Anderson has more closely resembled a conventional leadoff hitter. He has accepted five walks the past two games and has reached base in 20 of 29 plate appearances, a staggering .690 clip. He has reached base four times in each of four games.

Call off the hounds

Despite published reports elsewhere, Monday's game was never threatened by chaos. Four balls given away as part of an Opening Day promotion were thrown near right fielder Eric Davis before the bottom of the first inning. The game was briefly interrupted as the balls were cleared and an announcement made that the guilty parties were an "embarrassment" to less rowdy fans. Applause greeted the announcement.

More unsettling was the lack of security that accompanied Roberto Alomar's return from a five-game suspension. Though harmless, a bare-chested fan ran through the outfield for two minutes waving a Royals flag until run down by two team employees. A single policeman shuffled onto the field to apply handcuffs.

"Normally, I would get mad at something like that. But the guy was well-decorated, so I said to myself, 'He's a Royals fan,' " Royals manager Bob Boone said jokingly.

Around the horn

At least 4,000 seats remain for each of this weekend's three games at Camden Yards against the defending AL West champion Rangers, and about 8,000 are available for each of two games against the Minnesota Twins, April 14-15. The Orioles have yet to play before a crowd of less than 25,000. Their attendance has averaged 38,540. Proving that sportswriters know how to play hurt, Kansas City Star beat reporter Dick Kaegel will be on the job today despite taking a foul ball to the head Monday. Kaegel's misplay warranted time Monday on ESPN's "SportsCenter."

Pub Date: 4/09/97

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