More than Rhodes' elbow sore as he takes seat on DL He cites lack of role, 'getting up five times in two days'

Orioles notebook

July 14, 1998|By Joe Strauss and Roch Kubatko | Joe Strauss and Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

A shapeless season within the Orioles' bullpen claimed another victim yesterday when left-hander Arthur Rhodes was placed on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to July 5 with a strained left elbow.

Rhodes, third among American League relievers with 57 1/3 innings, had complained of the soreness since before the All-Star break. Yesterday he referred to the cause as abuse in middle relief.

"I don't have any role and I haven't had one all season," Rhodes said. "Some days I pitch three innings and take two days off. Sometimes I pitch three innings, get a day off, then I'm getting up two or three times the next day. It's hard to deal with that, especially when you're getting up five times in two days."

Rhodes last stirred Friday but did not take part in a 3-2 win over Boston. He warmed up three times, but manager Ray Miller opted for another left-hander, Jesse Orosco, who gained the win. Rhodes later vented his frustration at pitching coach Mike Flanagan.

"If I pitch three innings, I need two days off," said Rhodes, who has been bothered by knee, shoulder and oblique muscle problems in the past. "You'd like a better understanding of what's happening."

Rhodes has pitched credibly -- 3-3 with a 3.30 ERA and three saves in 30 appearances -- despite being shuttled between long, middle and short relief. He is not alone. The majority of the bullpen has dealt with shifting responsibilities because of abbreviated starts by the rotation and injuries and suspensions among their own. Last year he remained in middle relief the entire season, with 10 wins in 53 appearances.

Miller, crushed by scarred pitching, said he has little patience with Rhodes' complaint. He cited Rhodes' availability for only five appearances during a disastrous May and his willingness to "hide" him within a struggling bullpen.

"I said back then I wouldn't blow out the bullpen and I stuck to it," he said. "I took it on the chin and received a lot of gas for that. I've got to apologize to no one. We've been involved in six or seven straight one-run games [through Saturday]. It's not like spring training when you can tell somebody he's got the sixth inning. You manage to win games. I had to do that tonight. If I'm going to win games, I need 11 pitchers who can pitch."

Rhodes became the seventh Orioles pitcher to land on the disabled list this season. Though vague about his station, Rhodes had given Miller a 1.93 ERA and 34 strikeouts in his last 28 innings. He received a cortisone injection on Sunday morning but Miller publicly speculated about the need for yesterday's move. Norm Charlton inherited his role in Sunday's game against the Red Sox, allowing a two-run homer to Mo Vaughn.

"He told me they injected him and he'd need at least three more days," Miller said. "And I said I didn't want him to go through that again. I pretty much did that the whole month of May."

More than half (16) of Rhodes' 30 appearances have lasted two innings or more, including six of at least three innings. Miller has used him on consecutive days twice and nine times on one day's rest.

However, the onset of Rhodes' elbow tenderness coincided with a demanding stretch from June 13-19 in which he made three appearances covering 8 1/3 innings.

Benitez copes with callus

Miller regained one of his bullpen options when Armando Benitez said he could pitch last night after being unavailable the past two games because of a small cut on his right middle finger.

He replaced Pete Smith in the eighth and got the final two outs of the inning.

Trainer Richie Bancells said Benitez has developed a callus, which creates a slit when dug back into his finger. The reliever's been told to keep it shaved down to allow the cut to heal. Otherwise, the condition is aggravated each time he grips a baseball.

"I can throw the ball," he said before the game. "If they need me to be there, I will."

Drabek keeps adjusting

Winless since May 28 and his ERA up to 7.27, starter Doug Drabek said he will keep trying to make adjustments and hope for the best.

Drabek, who turns 36 later this month, has allowed at least four runs in six consecutive starts, with his longest effort being 5 1/3 innings against Seattle on June 2. He lasted 4 2/3 innings against Boston on Sunday, giving up five runs and six hits.

"I was trying to get ground balls and I got them. They just went in the holes," he said. "I'll just take the ball and do what I have to do to battle. I won't go out and say it can't get any worse and it's got to get better, because it could stay worse. It doesn't necessarily mean it has to change."

The expected return of Scott Kamieniecki and Jimmy Key by early next month -- Key will throw three simulated innings in the bullpen today -- could jeopardize Drabek's standing. But he insisted he's not approaching each start as if his job is on the line.

"If I have to go out there and fight for my job after 13 years, then maybe it's time," he said. "But I'll go out the same, whether I was 25 or 35, the club losing or going good. Basically it's the same kind of outlook. Just go as long as I can."

Close call

During batting practice, reliever Alan Mills was walking to the outfield with his back to the plate, just to the left of the protective screen at second base, when Rafael Palmeiro sent a line drive toward him.

As players yelled to Mills, he lowered his head at the last instant without turning around, and the ball shot past him. The margin for error was minuscule. Mills missed about two months of last season after a collision with Lenny Webster during batting practice.

Around the horn

The Orioles are 22-3 at home when scoring first. Toronto third baseman Ed Sprague made his team-high 14th error in the first inning and did not homer for the first time in four games.

Pub Date: 7/14/98

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