Rotation recast to fit playoff mold Mussina is positioned to start series opener

Sidelight

September 23, 1997|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

While still trying to make their magic number for clinching the AL East disappear, the Orioles have altered their rotation for the remainder of the regular season so Mike Mussina can start Game 1 of the Division Series.

Mussina's next appearance has been moved to Thursday in Toronto, which gives him five days rest before opening the playoffs Oct. 1 in Seattle -- assuming the Orioles don't tumble to the wild card. Nerio Rodriguez will take Mussina's place tonight in Toronto, followed by Scott Kamieniecki.

Rick Krivda, Scott Erickson and Jimmy Key will start in Milwaukee, closing the regular season. Key, coming off another abbreviated outing Sunday, also is being moved back two days.

Because Mussina last pitched Thursday against Milwaukee, Miller and manager Davey Johnson had to find a way to space his next two starts so he would be available for Game 1 without being rusty or rushed.

"I think it's important that you don't have too much rest, and yet enough rest," said pitching coach Ray Miller. "To pitch Mussina [today], he'd have to go seven full days. I couldn't pitch him again before the playoffs and that would be stupid. I think it's fairly intelligent to give him six this side and five or six days on the other side to get fresh because we're going to need a lot out of him."

Scott Erickson will pitch Game 2 in Seattle, and Key will start Game 3 at Camden Yards, as he did last year in the ALCS while with the New York Yankees.

The Orioles are hoping the extended time off for Key before pitching in Milwaukee will do more than just freshen his arm for the Division Series. It also could benefit a sore hamstring that had prevented him from running until yesterday, and work out some other kinks that led to his departure Sunday after 4 2/3 innings.

"I want to give him an extra four, five days and a couple sidelines to get him strong," Miller said. "I also want to tighten his stretch mechanics a little bit. He's pretty good out of the windup; he's having a little trouble out of the stretch. That will give us two times on the side to correct that and get everybody lined up right and still win the division, which we definitely want to do.

"We haven't really asked a lot out of these guys all year and we're going to have to. I think it's a good time to freshen them up."

Kamieniecki's next start also will be his last, at least through the first round of the playoffs. As expected, he will go to the bullpen as part of Johnson's 10-man staff.

The act of setting up the rotation for the postseason comes at an unusual time, with the magic number still at three after last night's loss. But club officials felt they couldn't wait any longer.

"You have to win the division," Miller said, "but at the same time, you can't just pitch people and all of a sudden be in a five-game series and there's nobody lined up. You just can't do that. I think we're going to accomplish both.

"There was an awful lot of thought put into this. Davey and I and Pat [Gillick] sat here for God knows how long the other night talking about it, and I think it's the right thing to do. I certainly have enough faith in this club to win three games."

Pub Date: 9/23/97

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