Miller to jolt order, roster Leadoff role no longer Anderson's

Mathews or Charlton to be cut

'Going to be some changes'

Palmeiro, Alomar put back on O's trade block

June 29, 1998|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

MONTREAL -- The end of the season's first half apparently also marked the end of manager Ray Miller's patience, and the Orioles intend to devote the next two days to reshaping their roster and batting order.

A late-night meeting among Miller, his coaches and assistant general manager Kevin Malone after Saturday's game cemented the manager's push to subtract at least one veteran -- Norm Charlton or Terry Mathews -- from a porous bullpen.

Before yesterday's game -- an 8-4 loss that capped a three-game Montreal Expos sweep and extended the Orioles' losing streak to six -- Miller planned to alter the lineup radically. But he decided to delay the unveiling until the Orioles reclaim the designated hitter tomorrow against the Florida Marlins.

Frustrated by an on-base percentage that "stinks," Miller intends to replace leadoff man Brady Anderson with Roberto Alomar, who hit cleanup during the team's winless five-game trip.

The shake-up occurs while majority owner Peter Angelos contemplates a front-office recommendation that the club begin disbanding a $69 million payroll that includes 12 pending free agents and eight players older than 35. Miller, long reluctant to agree to sweeping changes, now appears more receptive to the idea.

Rafael Palmeiro and Alomar have again been placed on the trade market after being withdrawn in the wake of last month's failed negotiations with the New York Mets, a club source said.

Miller also is seeking outfield help so the club might put right fielder Eric Davis on the disabled list. Davis has not played since leaving Wednesday's game after taking a pitch to his sore right elbow.

Offensively, the immediate difference will be a jolted lineup. Anderson, who has fallen into a 4-for-27 funk and is tied for third on the club with 42 strikeouts, may tumble as low as eighth in the order. He entered yesterday's game with a .307 on-base percentage and seven steals in 61 games. Outfielder Joe Carter, the current No. 2 hitter, may drop into a more conventional spot for a power hitter.

"There's been a lot of thought put into it. There's going to be some changes. We have to turn it around," Miller said. "On-base percentage is very important at the beginning of a ballgame, and it's got to get better than it is right now."

The Orioles entered yesterday with a .341 team on-base percentage, seventh-best in the American League and just below the league average, .342. However, the top of the order has lagged, especially with the free-swinging Carter behind Anderson.

Miller defends his team against charges of lethargy, but Expos manager Felipe Alou said the Orioles were sleepwalking during his club's sweep. Saturday night's losing pitcher, Mike Mussina, chastened the club, saying: "We have to find ways to win games, and we're not finding them. Some days it doesn't seem like we're looking."

Left fielder B. J. Surhoff said: "Right now we're not playing with a lot of confidence, for whatever reason. There's not a big difference between winning and losing. But we're not doing the things to make up for that difference."

Catcher Chris Hoiles added: "It looks bad, I know. For whatever reason, we've struggled and we haven't given anybody much reason for optimism."

Miller has lobbied for younger, more aggressive arms to replace Mathews and Charlton, both of whom have wilted in middle relief, with 6.20 and 7.16 ERAs, respectively. Given the team's spiral, Miller would prefer to see fresh faces with more influence on the club's future.

Chris Fussell, a hard thrower with inconsistent control at Double-A Bowie, is among those Miller has mentioned. The club could promote Steve Ontiveros from Triple-A Rochester, where he is 4-0 while splitting time between the rotation and bullpen.

There are other more distant options. Nerio Rodriguez continues to rehabilitate at Bowie from shoulder tendinitis. In his first appearance since a 1 1/3 -inning start in Seattle May 25, Rodriguez pitched two perfect innings Thursday.

Rocky Coppinger, still recovering from rotator cuff and elbow surgery last summer, pitched five innings the same night. Coppinger has made seven appearances, striking out 30 in 31 innings, but is still rediscovering arm strength.

"What we're doing now isn't working," Miller said. "When you go this long and it's not working, you make some changes."

Pub Date: 6/29/98

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