O's set to carry fewer arms Three-man rotation, 10 pitchers likely in division playoffs

September 18, 1997|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

Manager Davey Johnson is leaning toward a slimmed-down, 10-man pitching staff for the presumed Division Series against the Seattle Mariners, and is all but set on employing a three-man starting rotation of Mike Mussina, Scott Erickson and Jimmy Key.

Johnson's settling on a three-man rotation would hardly be surprising, but there had been discussion about whether Mussina or Erickson would start Game 1 in Seattle. Mussina has been the favorite since Johnson and pitching coach Ray Miller began discussions earlier this month. He has enhanced his standing since.

Though Key and Erickson are tied with 16 wins, Mussina has pitched better lately, despite winning just once since Aug. 8. He has twice started opposite Mariners ace Randy Johnson, and the Orioles won both.

Johnson said yesterday that he would likely have his rotation set by the time Scott Kamieniecki starts tomorrow against the Detroit Tigers.

"The next start everybody has, depending on where we're at, we'll do some things and set things up the way we want them," Johnson said.

As for his probable exclusion from the first-round rotation, Kamieniecki said: "I haven't thought about it, to tell you the truth. I'm more concerned about us playing well. If we don't start playing better, there might not even be a fourth game."

Key, scheduled to appear Oct. 4 when a series with Seattle would return to Baltimore, eased fears about any allergy to Camden Yards with Tuesday's win over the Cleveland Indians. It was Key's first win at home since May 7.

A 10-man staff would likely include the three starters, Kamieniecki, Arthur Rhodes, Jesse Orosco, Randy Myers, Armando Benitez, Alan Mills and Terry Mathews. Shawn Boskie and Rick Krivda are most notably absent.

Boskie is dealing with elbow soreness that has made him ineffective since leaving the disabled list Sept. 1.

Johnson used a 12-man staff for much of this season, but such a busload is considered a luxury during the best-of-five Division Series. The Orioles can adjust their roster between each round of playoffs, and could add an 11th arm for the American League Championship Series. An ALCS return match against the New York Yankees would likely mean the addition of the left-handed Krivda.

"Right now, I'd have to say I'd take 10. But something may happen between now and then and I'd take 11. But right now I'd take 10," Johnson said.

With 15 position players avail- able, Johnson would stock his bench with four of the following: Eric Davis, Jerome Walton, Jeff Reboulet, Aaron Ledesma and Tony Tarasco.

Johnson has committed himself to giving Davis, a gifted outfielder with speed, every opportunity to play himself into shape for the postseason. Among the two remaining outfielders, Walton is 4-for-21 since returning from the 60-day disabled list Sept. 1. Tarasco, a left-handed bat, is 0-for-21 since Aug. 2 and 2-for-33 since making consecutive starts July 19-20. However, his presence may be less vital given the possibility of the Orioles' facing left-handed starters in four games of a five-game series.

Ledesma has recently usurped Reboulet's role as the team's primary utility player because of his bat. However, Reboulet is a superior defensive player, a vital late-inning commodity given injuries to third baseman Cal Ripken and second baseman Roberto Alomar.

Pub Date: 9/18/97

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