Roughed-up Kamieniecki feels 'pretty good' 'I just need to fine-tune'

Orioles notebook

Ponson: 4 shutout innings

March 04, 1998|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Right-hander Scott Kamieniecki summed up yesterday's two-inning start against the Minnesota Twins by saying it could have been a lot better, but it also could have been much worse.

There was more room for improvement than backsliding.

Turning in the least impressive performance by an Orioles starter this spring, Kamieniecki allowed four hits and four runs, walked two and struck out two. He threw 44 pitches, but left short of the three innings manager Ray Miller and pitching coach Mike Flanagan had desired.

His curveball wasn't tight and his fastball was hittable, but his spirits weren't low.

"I was just working on throwing strikes, trying to keep the ball over the plate and making them put it in play," said Kamieniecki, who signed a two-year, $6.2 million contract after winning 10 games last season as the No. 4 starter.

"I felt pretty good out there. A couple plays here, a couple plays there. You like to see better results, but sometimes you can't control that. For the most part I felt comfortable. I just need to fine-tune."

Kamieniecki, who watched the Orioles and Twins play to a 6-6 tie in nine innings, walked Brent Gates with one out in the first inning. Corey Koskie gave the Twins a 1-0 lead with a triple to right field, the ball deflecting off Eric Davis' glove.

The margin grew to 4-0 in the second inning. Doug Mientkiewicz barely missed a home run before lining a single. Esteban Beltre doubled past a diving Cal Ripken, and No. 9 hitter Javier Valentin walked to load the bases. Matt Lawton brought in one run with a bouncer to second, and Gates delivered two more with a single to right.

"I couldn't make the one pitch I needed to get out of the inning," Kamieniecki said.

"Kammy was a little wild," Miller said, "but he certainly wasn't missing by much."

"He just missed with a ton of pitches," Flanagan added.

Economical Ponson

It took more than eight months for right-hander Sidney Ponson to get back on the mound. He was much more economical yesterday when it came to dispatching of the Twins and impressing the Orioles.

Returning from a strained right elbow that cut his season short at Double-A Bowie, Ponson turned in the longest outing by an Orioles pitcher this spring. He threw four shutout innings, allowing four hits and striking out three, and didn't walk a batter.

He was on a three-inning or 45-pitch limit, but needed only 35 to get through four.

"I felt great," said Ponson, 21, who was born in Aruba. "I was using all my pitches and everything was basically working for me."

Ponson, who went 2-7 with a 5.42 ERA at Bowie, admitted to feeling nervous when he first took the ball. "But after I got the first guy, I said, 'It's the same game.' And I just tried to get guys out."

"He's got a golden arm," Flanagan said. "He does a lot of things right and doesn't mess around. He's not a high-pitch guy. He's very aggressive in the strike zone; a very confident young man."

Webster gets in swing

Catcher Lenny Webster approached Miller yesterday morning and lobbied for a chance to play for the first time this spring, but was told to wait another day.

Instead, he had to wait only a few more hours.

Webster, bothered by some stiffness in back of his surgically repaired left shoulder, pinch hit in the eighth inning with two outs, the score tied and a runner on second. He swung at the first pitch, flying to center.

"You're sitting here, it's a tie game and you've got a major-league hitter sitting there. And he said he could play. I figured, 'What the heck?' " Miller said.

Webster will get a couple at-bats in today's split-squad game against the Mexico City Reds in Fort Lauderdale. The other half of the club will be in Jupiter, Fla., to play the St. Louis Cardinals, with right-hander Doug Drabek making his Orioles debut.

Clyburn atones with bat

Miller said he could envision outfielder Danny Clyburn helping the club at some point this season. If so, it apparently will be with his bat.

Clyburn, who will turn 24 next month, misplayed a ball in left field for the second straight day, this time getting charged with an error in the eighth inning that increased the Twins' lead to 6-4. The ball skipped past him as he charged a single by David Ortiz.

But Clyburn atoned for the mistake in the bottom of the eighth, delivering a two-out, two-run single that tied the score. He also hustled into second when the ball was bobbled in the outfield.

"He's obviously got power," Miller said. "Every time you shake hands with him, he bruises the upper part of your wrist."

Clyburn is likely to begin the year at Triple-A Rochester, where he batted .300 last season with 33 doubles, 20 homers and 76 RBIs.

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