O's Mussina remains in control on mound even in batter's box Ace gives club RBI single, another five solid innings

Orioles notebook

March 16, 1998|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- With only two starts remaining before his Opening Day assignment, Mike Mussina gave manager Ray Miller another reassuring performance yesterday with five well-managed innings against the New York Mets.

Mussina took the decision in a 5-2 win to bump the Orioles' spring record to 9-5. Mussina has allowed five earned runs and 19 hits in 15 innings.

More impressively, Mussina walked none yesterday, leaving his spring total at three against nine strikeouts. Mussina threw 75 pitches, 10 below his limit. He surrendered eight hits, including a second-inning home run to Rich Becker, but escaped jams in several innings.

A year ago, Mussina missed his Opening Day start because of irritation in his elbow. He has experienced no such problem this spring, but is making no grand projections about his first several appearances.

"Five or six starts in spring training are certainly no preparation to go eight or nine innings the first time out. The weather's much cooler. Things are going to be different. I'm sure for a while we'll be watched very closely, especially in those snow-flurry games," said Mussina, referring to the season's first road trip to Kansas City and Detroit.

Mussina's crowning achievement was a second-inning RBI single off Mets left-hander Brian Bohanon. Mussina flared the hit over shortstop. The jam shot cost him a broken bat, one of Brady Anderson's, and a few barbs from bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks.

"When I went down there to do my running, Ellie said, 'Nice hitting.' When that's the first thing you hear, you know your pitching wasn't the best," Mussina said jokingly.

Barbs aside, Mussina seems on track along with the rest of a solidifying rotation. In the last seven games, Orioles starters have allowed only four earned runs, 26 hits and nine walks in 31 innings. The rotation's 1.16 ERA in that span belies a .298 batting average by opponents. The 11 pitchers projected to make up the staff have compiled a 4.20 ERA.

Ponson strong again

One of this spring's most encouraging stories belongs to prospect Sidney Ponson, the 21-year-old right-hander who lost last season to arm woes. Ponson pitched two scoreless innings yesterday, drawing the notice of Miller, who has noticed the right-hander's velocity.

"I feel like I've answered all the questions I had coming off last year," said Ponson, who continues to shed weight while reclaiming arm strength.

"The biggest thing was my velocity, and that seems like it's back. I've had no problems so I couldn't ask for more."

Making all the trips

Third base prospect Ryan Minor ranks among the club leaders in hits, at-bats, slugging percentage and runs scored, but he's the definitive Grapefruit leader in trips made.

Minor kept intact his record of perfect attendance yesterday by taking over for third baseman Cal Ripken in the sixth inning against the Mets, the Orioles' 16th exhibition game.

"I'm just here to get as many at-bats as I can and to make as strong an impression as I can," said Minor, who so far has done both. "Last year I really didn't know what my situation was. I've got a better idea this time. I'm more comfortable."

Miller again lobbied for Minor's promotion to Triple-A Rochester a year after playing an entire year at Single-A Delmarva, but said he has received no indication where the infielder will land.

Impeding the Oriole Way

One of Miller's primary goals is to standardize instruction throughout the organization. Differing philosophies that permeated the organization last spring came to frustrate him.

As pitching coach, Miller noticed resistance by some managers to incorporating the "Oriole Way" throughout the minor-league system. He has spoken with majority owner Peter Angelos and the club's front office to help, but acknowledges the effort remains an uphill battle.

"I think it'll be a little bit better this year. I've talked about it a little bit with the owner, Pat [Gillick] and Kevin [Malone] and Syd [Thrift]. But it's never going to be that way until you get a complex where your whole minor-league system's there," said Miller, reiterating a popular spring theme about the handicap of having separate facilities.

"Realistically, I'm a new manager this year, and everybody who is a [minor-league] manager or coach should have been in camp three or four days early to know what our coaches do.

"Whether you agree with it 100 percent or not, you make sure everybody does what we do here. The goal of any great organization is when a kid goes through Single-A, Double-A, Triple-A to the major leagues, the only difference is he gets a nicer uniform and plays in a nicer stadium. When that happens, that's when you've got it going."

Around the horn

B. J. Surhoff played a second straight day, relieving Wady Almonte in left field in the fourth inning. Surhoff was hitless in two at-bats but no longer appears limited by ligament damage in his right ring finger sustained during the Feb. 28 exhibition opener. Left-hander Doug Johns continued a long-shot campaign to make the club by pitching a scoreless eighth inning. Johns has been scored upon in only one of five appearances. The Mets stole three bases against catcher Chris Hoiles, but former Oriole Joe Orsulak was cut down in the fifth inning trying to advance on a pitch that short-hopped Hoiles. You can't manufacture speed. The Orioles have one triple in 550 spring at-bats compared with nine triples by their opponents in 571 at-bats. Eric Davis managed two hits and has hit safely in 10 of 11 games. He leads the Orioles with 28 total bases.

Pub Date: 3/16/98

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.