BOWIE SUN STAFF WRITER ROCH KUBATKO CONTRIBUTED TO THIS ARTICLE. — BOWIE -- The bottom line on Rocky Coppinger's first rehabilitation start with the Double-A Bowie Baysox last night was inconclusive at best.
Limited to throwing 64 pitches in four innings against the Akron Aeros, the Orioles' right-hander allowed four hits, three runs, walked one, struck out two and hit a batter.
But the run total was a bit misleading, with Akron capitalizing on bloop hits to the outfield and bleeders to the infield.
The Aeros' first run in the first inning was set up by an error by all-purpose infielder David Lamb, filling in at shortstop for Augie Ojeda, who was promoted to Rochester yesterday.
But Coppinger, who has been on the disabled list since May 10 with a sprained collateral ligament in his right elbow, showed better ball movement and control in his last two innings, using a slider to register his two strikeouts.
"I'm not 100 percent yet, but I felt relatively good," said Coppinger, who won 10 games as a rookie last season. "I threw some good sliders and change-ups, and toward the end, my fastball had more pop to it.
"The most positive thing was that I got stronger the longer I pitched. I had the hitters swinging at my pitch and kept the ball down when I had to. I'm a little tired now, but I'm almost there."
After he was relieved by Joel Bennett in the fifth inning, Coppinger threw for at least 10 minutes in the Baysox bullpen.
Orioles manager Davey Johnson said earlier yesterday that he hoped Coppinger could get in about 80 pitches last night, then progress to 100 his next outing, and work toward 120. But he doesn't want to see them crammed into five or six innings. He's looking for quality, not just quantity.
"I really like the way I saw him throw [Monday]," Johnson said. "He's got a ways to go before he's ready to pitch in the big leagues, but knowing Rocky, that could come together pretty quick."
Johnson wants Coppinger to remain at Bowie until he's strong enough to throw close to 100 pitches and have enough command to warrant a bump to Rochester. "You don't want him running up there struggling, having long innings," Johnson said.
Coppinger, 23, who had spent the past month in rehab with the Orioles' Rookie-level team in Sarasota, Fla., had the benefit of having Chris Hoiles as his battery mate.
Recovering from a tear in his right knee, Hoiles was completing his three-day rehab assignment to Bowie and will likely catch Mike Mussina in Baltimore tonight.
"Anytime you've got a guy with big-league experience like Chris catching you, it has to help," Coppinger said. "He knows what pitches to call in different situations."
Between innings, Coppinger also sought the advice of former Orioles reliever Moe Drabowsky, now the roving pitching coordinator for the farm system.
Coppinger, who first experienced arm problems in spring training, last pitched for the Orioles on May 9 when he allowed five runs and eight hits in three innings against Seattle. It was at that point he conceded that he needed to rest his arm and slowly work his way back.
Hoiles, however, felt confident he was ready to rejoin the Orioles. He caught part of two games and served as a designated hitter on Wednesday. At no time, did he feel pain in the knee he injured in a collision at home plate June 16.
After going 0-for-4 the first two games here, Hoiles got several chances to run the bases last night. He delivered a two-run double in the first inning and scored from second on Bryan Bogle's single to center. He also drew a walk in four at-bats.
Pub Date: 7/18/97