Johnson hits O's pitching switch Postponement pushes Erickson to Sunday

April 11, 1997|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Royals finally bowed to the inevitable last night, postponing a game that never had a chance and pushing the Orioles into a fresh flurry of pitching changes.

The juggling did not go without incident. Manager Davey Johnson and pitching coach Ray Miller decided to bump scheduled starter Scott Erickson to Sunday. Erickson voiced his dissent, retreated to an exercise bike and said no more.

The postponed game was tentatively rescheduled as part of an Aug. 19 doubleheader, leaving the Orioles to play 14 games in 13 days. Despite a steady downpour of sleet, the game hadn't been called 45 minutes before its scheduled 8: 05 p.m. start. About 50 die-hard fans sat inside Kauffman Stadium at the time. Meanwhile, more than a few members of the Orioles' travel party wondered if the controversial April 1 deci

sion to postpone the teams' Opening Day game in Baltimore factored in the delay.

Johnson never considered moving Mike Mussina off tonight's start. Mussina, who appeared Sunday against the Texas Rangers, is striving for a regular routine after being removed as Opening Day starter because of an inflamed elbow. Mussina pitched four innings against the Rangers, yielding six earned runs and eight hits in four innings but experiencing no discomfort.

Jimmy Key will follow tomorrow, with Erickson pitching on eight days' rest the next day.

Miller and Johnson had considered bumping Erickson even before Thursday's postponement. Miller worried whether Erickson's slight groin pull might be aggravated by pitching from a sloppy mound. Erickson had successfully lobbied to keep the start despite not having run for the past two days.

"Scottie's a tough guy. He wants the ball. He wants to pitch," Miller said. "He doesn't want anybody taking it from him."

"He didn't like it," Johnson said of Erickson's reaction. "We have the opportunity [to move him back]. The weather is cold. It's my decision. He'll go Sunday." Erickson won't be the most inconvenienced starter, however. Shawn Boskie was pushed from tomorrow's start to Wednesday behind Scott Kamieniecki. The delay is enough for Boskie to be made available for bullpen duty tonight and tomorrow. If he is not called upon before Wednesday, he will be working on 10 days' rest.

Boskie accepted the situation. He made the club this spring as its fifth starter and is the designated move man in these predicaments.

"I don't sit around thinking about it much," he said. "I'm here to win. Whatever I can do to help, I'm willing to do. I'm pleased to be part of this team. I'm not just saying that. I mean it. I'm not getting wrapped up in that other stuff."

Boskie's only appearance remains a four-inning start against the Texas Rangers on April 5. He was undone by a four-run third inning marred by Lee Stevens' three-run home run.

The Orioles continue to wait on establishing a semblance of normalcy for the rotation. They've yet to have a starter pitch into the seventh inning. Key has gone six innings twice, Erickson once.

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Texas Rangers

Site: Camden Yards

Time: 7: 35

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Rangers' John Burkett (0-0, 3.18) vs. Orioles' Mike Mussina (0-1, 13.50)

Tickets: 8,000 available

Pub Date: 4/11/97

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