Padres' Smith gives hurt O's an arm up In 'small step,' veteran to fill DL void in rotation

Sidelight

Bowie's Estes goes to S.D.

June 10, 1998|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

PHILADELPHIA -- The Orioles moved a half-step closer to rehabilitating an injury-scarred pitching staff yesterday by acquiring veteran swingman Pete Smith from the San Diego Padres for Double-A pitching prospect Eric Estes. Conceding more remains to be done, the club at least restored optimism to its pitching vocabulary.

In what assistant general manager Kevin Malone described as ** both "a lift" and a "small step," the Orioles obtained an immediate fourth starter while they wait for Jimmy Key and Scott Kamieniecki to return from the disabled list.

"It's a new guy who's pitched OK with San Diego. He just didn't have a role there anymore. We have a dire need for pitching and he knows how to pitch," Malone said of a deal that came together in three days. "We hope he can give us six or seven innings an outing. We know there will be days he can pitch into the sixth or seventh inning and there might be days he struggles some," Malone added. "But this certainly gives us greater flexibility."

To clear roster room for Smith, the Orioles designated Richie Lewis for assignment. Lewis was promoted on May 30 and absorbed a 15.43 ERA in two outings.

Thankful manager Ray Miller said that he will immediately relocate either Doug Johns or Sidney Ponson to the bullpen. It is more likely Johns, the rotation's only left-hander, will remain.

Ponson made his third start in 14 major-league appearances last night and has stated a preference to pitching in the bullpen.

Regardless of which pitcher is bumped, Miller finally will have a pitcher to consume middle innings. He recently has assigned the role to Alan Mills and Arthur Rhodes, who are a better fit as setup men for Armando Benitez.

"We just felt we needed some innings," said Malone. "Pete Smith knows how to pitch. He is similar to Doug Drabek. He's got four pitches he can throw for strikes. We're trying to improve every day. To a lot of people this won't appear significant, but this allows us to get better until we get a front-line starter."

The Orioles hope to acquire another starter within the next several weeks from a club that has played itself out of contention. It is clear that the Orioles are ready to concede

nothing in their pursuit of postseason play.

"We're going to try to keep getting better. This isn't the end; it's just the beginning," said Malone. "We're starting off taking small steps in hopes of taking a big step in the future."

Smith, 32, made eight starts in 10 appearances with the Padres, going 3-2 with a 4.78 ERA. Smith is a career 45-68 pitcher who has split time among four National League teams.

Once an original member of the Atlanta Braves "Fab Four" rotation, the right-hander is followed by a history of shoulder problems that includes a surgery and several bouts of tendinitis. However, the most recent occurred in 1994.

The Padres signed Smith as a minor-league free agent in December 1995. He pitched the entire '96 season at Triple-A Las Vegas before going 7-6 in 118 innings with the Padres last season. Smith recently moved to the bullpen.

The deal represents a short-term coup for the Orioles. Estes, 25, was considered a low-ceiling prospect and was 5-2 with a 4.38 ERA in nine starts at Bowie. A control pitcher with average velocity, Estes was signed by minor-league director Syd Thrift out of an independent league before the '97 season. He ranked seventh in the Orioles' farm system last year with a 3.47 ERA.

The past two days have offered the Orioles encouraging news on several fronts.

Key received a cortisone injection from Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., Monday and reported yesterday he felt no pain in his problematic left rotator cuff. Barring a recurrence of pain, Key might begin throwing again as soon as next week.

7)

Pete Smith's major-league statistics

Yr .. Club .. ..W-L .. ERA .. G ... GS ... IP .. H .. ER .. BB .. SO

'87 Atlanta . .. 1-2 . 4.83 .. 6 .. . 6 . 31.2 . 39 .. 17 .. 14 .. 11

'88 Atlanta ....7-15 . 3.69 . 32 ... 32 .195.1 .183 .. 80 .. 88 ..124

'89 Atlanta .. .5-14 ..4.75 ..28 .. .27 .142.0 .144 .. 75 .. 57 ..115

'90 Atlanta .. ..5-6 ..4.79 ..13 .. .13 ..77.0 ..77 .. 41 .. 24 .. 56

'91 Atlanta .. ..1-3 ..5.06 ..14 .. .10 ..48.0 ..48 .. 27 .. 22 .. 29

'92 Atlanta .. ..7-0 ..2.05 ..12 .. .11 ..79.0 ..63 .. 18 .. 28 .. 43

'93 Atlanta .. ..4-8 ..4.37 ..20 .. .14 ..90.2 ..92 .. 44 .. 36 .. 53

'94 N.Y. (NL) ..4-10 ..5.55 ..21 .. .21 .131.1 .145 .. 81 .. 42 ...65

'95 Cincinnati ..1-2 ..6.66 ..11 .. ..2 ..24.1 ..30 .. 18 .. .7 ...14

'97 San Diego .. 7-6 ..4.81 ..37 .. .15 .118.0 .120 ...63 .. 52 .. 68

'98 San Diego .. 3-2 ..4.78 ..10 .. ..8 ..43.1 ..45 ...23 ...18 .. 36

Tot. .. .. .. .45-68 ..4.47 .204 .. 159 .980.2 .986 ..487 ..388 ..611

Pub Date: 6/10/98

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