Aches, pains mount in bullpen, so call goes to Triple-A for help Miller hopes Rodriguez won't have to be used

Orioles Notebook

September 05, 1997|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK -- The Orioles' bullpen received some of the help it needed yesterday with the addition of right-hander Nerio Rodriguez from Triple-A Rochester.

Rodriguez was 11-10 with a 3.90 ERA in 27 starts with the Red Wings. He went 0-1 with a 4.32 ERA in eight games with the Orioles last season.

"He's got a good arm, a good slider. He's a good athlete," pitching coach Ray Miller said.

"Hopefully, we won't have to use him. If we do, hopefully he'll do the job for us."

The bullpen had worn thin with injuries to Arthur Rhodes (side), Alan Mills (groin) and Armando Benitez (back), and the need to rest Terry Mathews.

"Too many guys aren't 100 percent," said manager Davey

Johnson, who used both Mathews and Rhodes last night. Rhodes pitched out of a seventh-inning jam, striking out two.

"We've got some little aches and pains right now," assistant general manager Kevin Malone said.

Malone said that the club is looking into adding some position players, "sooner or later. Probably sooner." Bowie outfielder Dave Dellucci is a strong possibility, along with another catcher.

Benitez was forced out of Wednesday's game in Florida because of back stiffness after facing two batters in the eighth inning. Benitez said he felt good yesterday, but Johnson doubted the right-hander would be available last night. Mills had to leave Tuesday's game after one inning because of tightness on the right side of his groin.

"I'm not too sure about Millsy," Johnson said. "The right groin area, you want to make sure that thing's settled down before you start pushing off with the right leg."

Mills and Benitez apparently were victims of the mound at Pro Player Stadium, which had been rebuilt after Sunday's Colts-Dolphins NFL game.

"I guarantee it will be fixed before we go back there," Johnson said. "Everybody complained about the mound. It's not so much how high it was -- it's high -- but the slope is really severe. I think [Benitez] hyper-extended his back.

"Everybody said throwing to first, you felt like you were going to fall [toward] home."

Walton has death in family

Jerome Walton was written into the lineup as the designated hitter, batting second between Brady Anderson and Cal Ripken. But his name was scratched when club officials learned that Walton couldn't get to Yankee Stadium after receiving permission to fly home to Atlanta last night because of a death in his family. Walton did make it back and grounded into a double play in the eighth as a pinch hitter.

Harold Baines replaced Walton as the designated hitter and batted seventh, with second baseman Aaron Ledesma moving to second. The addition of Baines gave the Orioles three left-handed hitters against left-hander David Wells. It also produced a run in the seventh inning when Baines doubled to right, scoring B. J. Surhoff.

Palmeiro gets a rest

Johnson decided to rest Rafael Palmeiro, giving Surhoff his third start at first base this season. The timing made sense from a statistical standpoint: Palmeiro was batting .129 (4-for-31) in his career against Wells before last night. Surhoff was hitting .375 (9-for-24).

Palmeiro has started 129 games at first base, and three others as the DH. Only Cal Ripken (137) has started more games this season for the Orioles.

"He's had a little trouble with Wells," Johnson said of Palmeiro. "I'm just trying to give him a little break. He'll probably be in there [later]."

Limping Hoiles sits

Catcher Chris Hoiles was out of the lineup for the second consecutive night because of a sore right Achilles' tendon that Johnson hoped would benefit from some time off. Lenny Webster made his 62nd start behind the plate and had two hits, including a double, and tagged out Paul O'Neill trying to score in the fourth.

"He's a quality backup catcher, but he's been more valuable than a backup," Malone said of Webster, who was batting .441 in 17 games before last night. "He's sharing that position and that role and those responsibilities. He's more of a co-starting catcher than a backup.

"He has a positive effect on a team. He just knows how to play. He's a winning player because he can do the little things to help you."

Tarasco shin improves

Still more news from the injury front: Outfielder Tony Tarasco said he's regained a little more flexibility in his right foot after being hit on the shin by a pitch from Florida's Kevin Brown on Tuesday and might be available to pinch hit.

It better be hit a long way. Tarasco said he still can't run, which also means he can't play in the outfield.

"It's a little better, but it's still kind of restricted," he said.

Ripken rest not yet

Johnson's efforts to rest players in preparation for the playoffs haven't included Ripken yet, though he said earlier this week that he hoped to give the Iron Man some innings off when possible. Ripken was asked yesterday if it would be beneficial to him, given the physical challenges that came with switching positions.

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