Drabek scratched next start set for Saturday

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

He avoids DL for now

Baines strains hamstring

June 23, 1998|By Roch Kubatko and Joe Strauss | Roch Kubatko and Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

Still bothered by a strained muscle in his chest, Doug Drabek has been scratched from tonight's start against the New York Mets and replaced by left-hander Doug Johns. But for now, Drabek apparently has avoided becoming the fourth member of the rotation to go on the disabled list.

Johns, who has bounced between the rotation and bullpen, will make his eighth start. He also Drabek filled in for Drabek on Thursday night against Toronto, allowing four earned runs and eight hits in 4 2/3 innings of a 13-6 loss.

Drabek was scheduled to pitch for the first time since straining the muscle 10 days ago while warming in Toronto. Manager Ray Miller had said before the game that if Drabek couldn't start, the club might activate Nerio Rodriguez, who has been on the DL since May 26 with tendinitis in his right shoulder.

Instead, Drabek is penciled in for his next turn Saturday in Montreal. A move to the DL would have been retroactive to June 14, making him eligible to return on Monday when the Orioles are off.

Starters Jimmy Key and Scott Kamieniecki are on the DL. Kamieniecki and ace Mike Mussina have made two stops there.

"They decided to go ahead and skip the start and try to get me as close to 100 percent as possible," Drabek said. "Even though it felt a lot better, with four more days, hopefully everything will keep progressing like it has been."

Drabek pitched two innings in Toronto before coming out. He threw on the side for about 10 minutes Saturday and indicated yesterday that he was ready to attempt a return. But he was persuaded by pitching coach Mike Flanagan during a conversation in the outfield to wait a little longer.

For now, Rodriguez remains on hold. Regarded as one of the organization's top prospects, his season has been a bust so far. He was 1-4 with a 5.47 ERA at Rochester and allowed 10 runs in 6 1/3 innings with the Orioles.

But he's exhibiting better velocity and an improved slider during side sessions with Flanagan.

"Mike said he's popping the heck out of the ball," Miller said. "You can't do that if you have pain."

Baines comes up lame

Designated hitter Harold Baines left the game in the fifth inning after straining his left hamstring while running out a double to right field. Baines grabbed the back of his leg before sliding and had to be helped to the dugout.

While the club termed the injury a "minor strain," Baines admitted hearing "a pop" before going into his slide.

"It's sore. That's all I can tell you right now," he said.

Baines was 15-for-29 on this homestand, raising his average to a team-leading .330. He lined out in the first inning, robbed of a hit by a leaping catch by second baseman Carlos Baerga, then singled in the third and scored on Rafael Palmeiro's home run.

Before Baines' status became uncertain, Miller spoke of perhaps using him in the outfield for a few innings when the Orioles play the Mets at Shea Stadium. He hasn't played regularly in the outfield since 1987 because of creaky knees.

"If you have a chance to score some runs in the fifth or sixth inning, you pinch hit him there and play him in the outfield for a couple innings and maybe get two at-bats out of him. Then they bring in the left-hander [John] Franco, you've got a chance to get another right-hander in there," Miller said.

Dodgers aftershocks felt

The firing of Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Fred Claire and manager Bill Russell reverberated all the way to Camden Yards, as Mets manager Bobby Valentine and catcher Mike Piazza became the focus of speculation that the changes may have them headed west. Valentine is a well-known acolyte of Tom Lasorda, Claire's successor. Piazza is Lasorda's godson.

L Claire was blamed for Piazza's trade to the Florida Marlins.

Piazza sidestepped any such speculation, saying: "I don't know who traded me. It really doesn't matter now. I don't care."

While Piazza mouthed the obligatory line about being concerned only about the present, his manager admitted the previous 24 hours "could change things."

Valentine insisted he is happy with the Mets, but admitted that perceptions regarding Piazza, a pending free agent, may change. "I don't think it'll mean we're less likely to get him,"

Valentine said, "but there will be more talk of maybe him going back there."

At one time, Valentine was viewed as Lasorda's heir to the Dodgers' managerial throne.

"I have one of the finest jobs in all the world," said Valentine. "I'm not desirous of any other job."

Stay tuned. The naming of Albuquerque manager Glenn Hoffman is considered an interim move. Former Orioles manager Davey Johnson and the Marlins' Jim Leyland also are considered potential nominees.

Pulsipher finally gets call

The Mets recalled left-hander Bill Pulsipher from Triple-A Norfolk yesterday and optioned outfielder Benny Agbayani.

Pulsipher, who missed all of the '96 season after surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left elbow, pitched a scoreless seventh inning in his first big-league appearance since Sept. 11, 1995.

"When I went to bed, I was ready to pitch against Pawtucket," said Pulsipher, 24, who pitched for four of the Mets' minor-league affiliates last year. "I've been waiting for this opportunity, and the opportunity is now."

Around the horn

The game began 32 minutes late because of rain. The Orioles worked out pitcher Travis Harper, a third-round draft pick of the Boston Red Sox last year whose contract was voided because of pre-existing elbow injury. Harper, who has been cleared by Dr. James Andrews, is expected to sign with the Orioles soon.

Pub Date: 6/23/98

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