Miller talks baseball with O's He wants team to 'refocus'

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Otanez fractures wrist

August 28, 1998|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

CHICAGO -- As promised, manager Ray Miller closed the clubhouse about two hours before last night's game to remind his players of the importance of remaining professional, whether in a pennant race or not.

The 10-minute meeting provided Miller a forum to express his displeasure over the team's performance while losing five of its previous six games, effectively removing it from any pursuit of the wild-card-leading Boston Red Sox, who lead the Orioles by 10 games.

"I think we need to refocus," said Miller, before his team would go on to lose its fourth straight and sixth in the last seven, 7-4. "The job you're supposed to have when you sit here when you have a veteran club you expect it to correct itself. Sometimes that doesn't happen."

Miller said he had calmed down from Wednesday's aftermath after an embarrassing 12-5 loss that featured two errors, a critical defensive lapse during a six-run second inning and only six hits against an unimpressive pitching staff.

Miller also referred to his lobbying to majority owner Peter Angelos that the front office keep together a veteran clubhouse rather than junk the season in late July.

Miller has consistently refused to discuss the contract status of a clubhouse featuring nine pending free agents. However, with the lure of a postseason run virtually evaporated, the manager conceded that players would do well to think beyond their own self-interests. "Your contract status is the same no matter where you play," said Miller. "It doesn't matter if you're signed, on the last year of a contract or a multi-millionaire. Whether you stay here or go somewhere else, people are sitting here to see how you play. If you're not smart enough to understand that, you ought to sit back and take a look at things. When guys reach a certain stature, people put their jobs on the line to tell an owner he has to pay this guy a bunch of money because he'll play good for you. When someone does that, he's putting himself on the line for you."

Miller's specificly complained of a failure to make adjustments against dangerous hitters, a recurring theme during the White Sox series. He also is displeased with frequent fraternization with players from opposing teams, often during games, "but I guess you're not going to change something like that in this day and time."

Otanez out for season

Rookie right fielder Willis Otanez's season came to a sudden end last night after he suffered a fractured left wrist in the first inning on a dive attempt for Albert Belle's fly ball to shallow right field. Otanez caught and then dropped the ball when his wrist doubled back against his arm. He was assisted from the field by head trainer Richie Bancells.

Otanez, the regular third baseman at Triple-A Rochester before undergoing a crash course in right field last week, was making his second start there for the Orioles. In Otanez's absence, Miller moved Eric Davis from center field to right and inserted Rich Becker in center. Losing Otanez only exacerbates the Orioles' need for a right-handed hitting outfielder. General manager Pat Gillick has pressed to make a trade the last two weeks, but may have to promote Danny Clyburn from Triple-A Rochester.

Hoiles' back worsens

Chronic hip and lower back pain possibly associated with a disk condition may hasten Chris Hoiles' move to either first base or designated hitter after this season. Hoiles acknowledged yesterday that the stabbing pain, which occasionally causes him numbness in his left leg, persists despite daily treatment.

"It's not getting any better, that's pretty obvious," Hoiles said. "It's something you deal with for now. We'll see what happens later."

Admitting it has become painful to crouch, Hoiles made clear he is not asking for his role to be further diminished because of the injury. He already is frustrated about the gradual erosion of his starter's role. He adds that the condition does not make it painful to swing a bat.

"It's not something that's going to make me take myself out of the lineup. Whenever the manager puts my name on the card I'm going to play," Hoiles said. "Sitting isn't under consideration."

Hoiles, who is not wedded to catching, has received criticism for his slowing the last several years. He has said he would change roles "in a heartbeat" if it would assure him more at-bats.

Hoiles remained vague about the injury, saying he was uncertain whether the condition was more disk- or muscle-related. However, the symptoms -- numbness and pain when bending -- are similar to those endured by third baseman Cal Ripken last summer. Ripken eventually strengthened his lower back with rehabilitation that included a grueling set of exercises. Hoiles had no idea whether his condition might require surgery.

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