Out of rotation, Drabek still Miller favorite Manager isn't ruling out comeback by 'professional'


August 02, 1998|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Doug Drabek may not have a bigger sup porter in baseball than Orioles manager Ray Miller, which has come in handy while the veteran pitcher has struggled this season. But Miller couldn't hold a spot for him in the rotation any longer, moving Drabek to the bullpen last week.

Now, Drabek, 36, is clinging to his job with the Orioles, perhaps the most vulnerable pitcher when reliever Arthur Rhodes eventually returns from the disabled list.

Drabek went the last five innings Friday night, his first relief Drabek appearance since 1989 while with Pittsburgh. Miller was his pitching coach back then, and he pushed for Drabek's signing over the winter when the Orioles were searching for a fifth starter.

A former Cy Young winner, Drabek was supposed to bring stability to what had been a troubled spot in the rotation, but went 6-9 with a 7.06 ERA in 19 starts. He lasted only 4 2/3 innings in his last start July 23 against Oakland, and joked yesterday that at least he managed to stay out there longer on Friday, when he allowed four runs and seven hits in relief of Scott Erickson.

Miller said he's sure Drabek wonders if his time is up with the Orioles any time the right-hander is called into the manager's office.

"How much more is there, I don't know," said Miller, whose club added starter Juan Guzman Friday, "but it's hard not to think back to how many times people felt that way over the last four or five years and he came back and won some big ballgames. You won't find anybody more professional."

Said Drabek: "When everybody gets back and there's a numbers thing they have to deal with, if I'm the odd man out, then I'm the odd man out. I'm not really looking into the future and what might happen. I'll just keep enjoying it and do what I can. I'm not going to be sour about anything."

Baines ready, but who goes?

Harold Baines took early batting practice again, ripping line drives into the gaps and clearing the fence. Often told he could roll out of bed and get a hit, Baines also is proving he can go on the disabled list and do the same.

Barring any setbacks, he'll be activated Tuesday. Baines tested his left hamstring yesterday by running from first to third and said he felt good.

"It looks like he's a go for Tuesday, so that's good," Miller said.

The club will have to decide how to clear a spot for Baines. One player in jeopardy is outfielder Lyle Mouton, whose contract was purchased from Triple-A Rochester July 23. Mouton has appeared in four games, going 1-for-8 (.125).

Another option would be to put Jeffrey Hammonds back on the disabled list. Hammonds is expected to start today against Royals left-hander Glendon Rusch, just as he did Friday against Jose Rosado, going 0-for-4 with a walk.

Hammonds continues to be bothered by soreness in his left wrist. He had been on the DL with a disk-related nerve disorder.

"He thinks it's pretty good, but it's not quite where he can unload yet," Miller said. "I'll get him in there [today], and then we have an off day. Then we'll have to be real serious about looking at it."

Cleanup crowd favorite

It's a typical sight in any visiting clubhouse, at least one player going from locker to locker trying to drum up enough tickets to accommodate family and friends. On this trip, infielder P. J. Forbes is making the rounds, often with a sheepish grin on his face.

Forbes, 30, a career minor-leaguer until being called up from Triple-A Rochester last month, was born and still resides in Pittsburg, Kan., about a 90-minute drive from Kauffman Stadium. He said 21 family members are attending the games, "and I couldn't even tell you how many friends. Probably anywhere from 60 to 100."

Forbes gave his entourage a treat in Friday's series opener, playing second base the last three innings and batting cleanup after Miller had made wholesale changes with the game seemingly out of reach.

Down 9-1 going into the ninth, the Orioles scored five times to stir some drama into the proceedings. Forbes, who had grounded out to end the eighth, came up unexpectedly with two runners on and two outs, and kept the Orioles alive with his first major-league hit, an RBI single to left.

"That doesn't usually happen for a guy of my stature," Forbes, who's 5 feet 10 and 160 pounds, said of hitting cleanup. "I feel fortunate that something positive came out of it."

Palmer's bat isn't hurting

Dean Palmer was Kansas City's designated hitter for a fifth straight game because of a sore right foot that restricts his movement at third base.

"It does feel better," he said. "but when I'm on my feet for a long period of time, just pushing off or running, it still hurts. The last couple of days, though, it's been a lot better. I would expect to be able to play in the field very soon."

Maybe the Royals shouldn't rush him. With last night's home run, Palmer has six in seven games as DH.

Around the horn

Guzman won't join the club until tonight in Baltimore. He's scheduled to start Wednesday against Detroit. Brady Anderson, who walked three times last night, is 0-for-20 this year against Kansas City. The Royals' Jose Offerman's 21-game hitting streak is the third longest in the league this season. Miller won't commit to sending Rhodes on an injury rehab assignment when he's ready to leave the DL. "I don't know if I can afford to do that or not," he said. The Royals are 21-36 at Kauffman Stadium with last night's win. They need to win 13 of their last 24 home games to avoid finishing with their worst home record in franchise history.

Pub Date: 8/02/98

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