'99 schedule offers better travel lineup Short series will be rare

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

weeknight 7: 05 starts, more day games possible

July 24, 1998|By Joe Strauss and Roch Kubatko | Joe Strauss and Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

The Orioles released their 1999 schedule yesterday and rejoiced. The two-game series is all but dead.

An early schedule heavily weighted with home games includes the season opener April 5 against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. The Orioles go on to play 18 of their first 27 games at Camden Yards. Their first road series will be against the New York Yankees, April 13-15. They are also scheduled for five days off before May 4.

The Orioles' longest homestand is 12 games over 14 days from April 23 to May 6. They then go on the season's longest road trip -- a 10-game, 10-day tour of Detroit, Cleveland and Texas.

The most welcome adjustment will be a decrease in two-game series that have drawn blanket criticism from players and club officials.

The Orioles were scheduled for 19 two-game series this season but will have to endure only two next season -- July 21-22 at Boston and Sept. 21-22 at Texas.

To make the adjustment work, the Orioles will play six games against the Philadelphia Phillies in an interleague matchup. Every club will play a home-and-home arrangement with the rival league. The Cleveland Indians and Seattle Mariners visit Camden Yards for only one four-game series. The Orioles also will make only one trip to Chicago and Kansas City.

The Orioles will finish the season as they began, with 20 of their last 32 at home. American League East rivals New York and Boston invade for the season's final week.

Game times will be announced in November, but the club is giving strong consideration to starting all weekday night games at 7: 05. The Orioles are using that starting time this season in April, May and September but moved to 7:35 from June through August. The club may also choose to play more day games during the week, specifically on the final days of homestands. Feedback from the 7: 05 experiment has been universally positive, and attendance for day games during the week has kept pace with the team's league-leading average.

Kamieniecki: time to win

There is more to tomorrow's start for Scott Kamieniecki than just continuing his recovery from a bulging disk in his neck. One look at the standings tells him the importance exceeds his needs.

"I can't afford to rehab at this level and put a game or two at risk. That would go against what we're trying to do," the right-hander said. "We don't have the luxury of throwing guys out there, getting them back in shape. We've got to win every game now. If I wasn't healthy enough to pitch, I wouldn't go out there and risk a game."

So, rather than set any personal goals against Seattle, Kamieniecki is "just looking to throw strikes, get guys out, win a game. How many innings I throw depends on how the game goes. Hopefully, I can get to the sixth or seventh."

In his last start at Double-A Bowie, Kamieniecki pitched five strong innings in a 13-2 win, allowing three hits and walking none. "It's the best I've felt in the last two months," he said.

Kamieniecki hasn't pitched for the Orioles since May 22 in Oakland, when he allowed seven runs in three innings and complained of neck stiffness. He hasn't won since April 18 in Texas, when he started 2-0 before going on the disabled list for the first time with a groin strain and inflammation in his right elbow.

Rhodes not throwing

Left-hander Arthur Rhodes said it'll be "sometime next week" before he attempts to throw. He hasn't tried since feeling pain in his elbow while playing catch last Friday in Anaheim.

Rhodes remains on the DL with a strained tendon. He stood in the outfield during batting practice yesterday, once flipping the ball to reliever Norm Charlton rather than throwing it back to the infield himself.

Manager Ray Miller said trainer Richie Bancells has told him Rhodes won't be available until at least four days after he throws without pain.

Miller reins in antsy Alomar

Growing frustrated from sitting in the dugout while nursing a sprained joint in his right pinkie, Roberto Alomar told Miller that he wanted to do some hitting yesterday. No dice.

"He told me, 'I can't stand this,' but I don't want to rush him, either," Miller said. "Richie told me he could swing the bat and it could be OK, but it could set him back a few days.

"Sometimes these things work out for the best. This guy plays every day. He gets a break now, and he'll come back real fresh and give us a shot in the arm.

"I'm hoping for the first of [next] week. It would be nice if I got him before then, but "

Alomar hopes to return as hot as when he left Saturday in Anaheim. He has hit in five straight games, going 11-for-23.

Becker provides a lift

There was a time when outfielder Rich Becker's days as an Oriole appeared to be numbered. He wasn't playing much and didn't make a difference when given the chance. But Becker, who didn't start but played last night, has led off twice this week and has appeared in 13 of the last 14 games, hitting safely in four straight.

He has also injected some speed into the lineup, which Miller has coveted all season.

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