Second trip to DL to sideline Mussina through at least May Ace's nose to be reset

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Johns is replacement

May 19, 1998|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Bill Free contributed to this article.

The Orioles will go into New York for the start of an eight-game trip tonight without momentum or their ace. They have a chance to regain only one before returning home.

Forced to stay behind because of injuries suffered Thursday, Mike Mussina was placed on the disabled list yesterday for the second time in five weeks. The move is retroactive to Friday, meaning he will be eligible to return May 30 when the Orioles are home against Texas, though he won't be ready.

Mussina (4-2, 2.52 ERA) was scheduled to start tonight opposite the Yankees' David Cone, but that changed when he was hit in the face by a line drive from Cleveland's Sandy Alomar, suffering a deep gash over his right eye and a fractured nose. Mussina's nose will be reset Thursday at University of Maryland Medical Center. He was told by a plastic surgeon it would be a few weeks after that before he can pitch.

"They may have to splint it," he said. "With the procedure, breathing will be difficult the next couple of days."

Mussina threw lightly in the bullpen yesterday for about 10 minutes. He won't be able to throw for two or three days after Thursday's procedure, which will cause more swelling.

"I could feel it when I jogged or when I threw, but it's not bad. My vision's pretty good. There are some shadows low, but that's it," he said.

Johns to start tonight

Left-hander Doug Johns was activated to take Mussina's spot and will start in his place tonight. On the DL since May 8 because of insomnia, Johns had thrown on the side three times before yesterday.

Manager Ray Miller said he had "limited" choices. The other option was recalling Nerio Rodriguez a second time from Triple-A Rochester, but Miller received some unfavorable reports on the right-hander after his last start.

"He was basically a one-pitch pitcher," Miller said. "He pitched five innings and couldn't get his breaking ball over. That's not too high a rating going into Yankee Stadium for a start."

Miller didn't consider giving Sidney Ponson the start, preferring to keep the young right-hander in the bullpen, where he's most effective. "He's one of the few guys who's throwing really free," Miller said.

Johns will be making his second start as an Oriole and the 34th of his major-league career. He didn't get a decision in Anaheim on April 21, allowing three earned runs -- including a homer to Cecil Fielder -- and seven hits in four innings.

"He's a four-pitch pitcher who can hopefully give us four or five innings up front and then go from there," Miller said. "You look for a turnaround game. Maybe that can be one."

In his last appearance May 2, Johns permitted an 11th-inning homer to Minnesota's Ron Coomer in an 8-7 loss. Two days later, he phoned Miller and disclosed that he was having a "personal problem," which the manager later learned was a sleeping disorder.

Johns sought help through the Orioles' employee assistance program and has treated the condition through medication and the close supervision of a psychologist, who cleared Johns to be activated.

"I've been sleeping better and throwing on the side. I feel better," said Johns, who estimated last week that he was getting between four and five hours of sleep a night.

Charged atmosphere

New York Yankee Stadium the Bronx zoo and lots of Orioles haters.

Could that kind of hostile atmosphere finally bring out the best in the struggling Orioles?

Miller is keeping his fingers crossed.

"I hope playing in Yankee Stadium, where everybody hates you, will be just what this team needs to start winning again," Miller said. "It would be great to go up there in front of that mass media and shut up the New York writers. In New York and Boston, you don't need anybody to point fingers at you. If you mess up, you'll find your face plastered across the back page of the newspaper with the word 'Choke!' "

Miller says the Orioles need to strike it rich in New York to wipe out the bad taste of their four-game sweep by the Devil Rays.

"I don't mean to be putting down Tampa Bay, because they're not like an expansion team with players like [Dave] Martinez, [Wade] Boggs and [Fred] McGriff," Miller said. "But they are an expansion team."

Davis, Carter switched

Miller had planned on starting Eric Davis in right field and using Joe Carter as his designated hitter, but switched them before batting practice.

Davis' right elbow has been tender, and he's receiving treatment before games and wrapping it. It's not affecting his swing, though. He was batting .361 (13-for-36) this month with seven homers and nine RBIs before going 0-for-3 last night. He started in right field the first two games of this series before sitting out Sunday's loss.

Miller also had B. J. Surhoff on the bench last night, starting Jeffrey Hammonds in left field against Tampa Bay left-hander Tony Saunders. Hammonds went 1-for-4 with an RBI.

Surhoff, who got into the game as a pinch hitter in the ninth inning, has appeared in every game, starting all but four. The last time he didn't start was April 27 against Anaheim, when he walked as a pinch hitter in the ninth inning.

Around the horn

Last night's crowd of 45,033 pushed the season attendance total to 1,014,515 on the club's 23rd home date. The Orioles also surpassed the 1 million mark in 23 dates in 1993 and 1997. The record is 22 dates in 1994. On May 30, Miller will be honored at Opening Day for Takoma Park Babe Ruth Baseball and Softball at Ed Wilhelm Field in Takoma Park, Miller's birthplace, from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. The U.S. Postal Service will unveil a stamp honoring Babe Ruth at Yankee Stadium before tonight's game. Julia Ruth Stevens, Ruth's daughter, will participate in the ceremony.

Pub Date: 5/19/98

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