FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Heavy rain forced a premature end to yesterday's second intrasquad game, but not before Scott Erickson and Doug Johns each had gotten in two innings. With different results.
Though he didn't throw poorly, Erickson allowed three runs to a B team composed mostly of players from the minor-league camp. Two runs came in the first inning, when a strikeout pitch skipped past young catcher Chip Alley, whose throw hit 6-foot-6 Frank Figueroa as he raced up the line.
"It felt like I was facing hitters for the first time since September," Erickson said. "I got through it. That's all you're looking for."
Erickson said he won't put any special emphasis on integrating more off-speed pitches into his repertoire, as he has done the past few springs.
"When I'm pitching best, I'm throwing hard stuff. When I go to the other stuff, it's when I'm missing something else," he said.
Johns worked two scoreless innings before being replaced by Radhames Dykhoff.
"He threw strikes. Of course, it was awfully dark," manager Ray Miller said, jokingly.
Johns was most concerned about making sure his mechanics were sound and throwing strikes came easily.
"You don't want to have to worry about, `Can I get this pitch over, can I get that pitch over?' You want to make sure everything's right," he said.
"The first couple times we went out for [batting practice], the hitters pretty much wanted to see fastballs. The second time I mixed in a curve and changeup. And today I tried to mix them in, too."
Miller also noted yesterday how quickly second baseman Jesse Garcia turned a double play, and how first baseman Calvin Pickering dug a few throws out of the dirt.
Timlin own toughest critic
When Mike Timlin left after one ineffective inning of Tuesday's opening intrasquad game, Miller said it had more to do with a chipped fingernail on the reliever's pitching hand.
Timlin, signed to a four-year, $16 million contract over the winter, wouldn't use that excuse yesterday.
The reason for his poor showing, when he served up home runs to Harold Baines and Willis Otanez, had everything to do with "just throwing bad," he said.
"The ball was up all day. I didn't get it down," he said. "I didn't have good mechanics. I was rushing a little bit. It's only the first intrasquad game, but you still have to look yourself in the eye."
Hairston remains flexible
Jerry Hairston, who made the climb from Single-A Frederick to Camden Yards last season, said he hasn't been told by club officials of their plans for him this season. Specifically, where he'll play after starting at shortstop for the Keys and then moving to second base before being promoted to Double-A Bowie in July.
There have, however, been a few hints.
Most of his work in camp has been at shortstop, and he replaced Mike Bordick there during Tuesday's intrasquad game. Garcia started at second for the A team yesterday.
"Wherever they want me to play, I guess I'll play. I just want to get in the lineup," Hairston said.
Not that Hairston, 22, doesn't have a preference. "I like second base better. I feel more comfortable there. For some reason I'm able to use my athletic ability more there," he said.
"I think I could be a really good second baseman, but if they want me to play short, I go where I'm told."
No one had to tell Hairston how to hit last season. He batted .326 in 55 games with the Baysox, and .302 with 34 doubles, six triples, 10 homers, 70 RBIs and 98 runs combined at Frederick and Bowie.
Hairston became the fourth member of his family, and the third generation, to reach the majors. His father, Jerry, played 14 years. His grandfather, Sam, appeared in four games with the 1951 Chicago White Sox. And his uncle, Johnny, appeared in three games with the 1969 Chicago Cubs.
"I'm proud of what I did last year, but that's in the past," Hairston said. "I don't want to just make it to the big leagues, I want to stay there. People say that's the hardest part to do, but I know I can play there if just given the opportunity. And not just play there, but play well there. I just need the chance."
No matter what position.
Taking Cal, leaving Albert
Miller said he probably won't take Albert Belle to Fort Myers on Saturday for the opening exhibition game against Minnesota.
"I just want to split it up. We go there twice," Miller said. "I wish I didn't have to take any of our everyday players. You leave at 8 in the morning and drive across the state to get two or three at-bats."
Unlike last spring, Cal Ripken will make the trip for the Twins game. Miller wants to appease the fans who packed the ballpark last year for the chance to get an autograph from the future Hall of Famer. Ripken and some other regulars stayed behind twice while the club ventured down Alligator Alley.
"I got all kinds of letters," Miller said.
Mike Mussina will start Saturday's game, followed by Ricky Bones, Terry Burrows and Timlin. Erickson will start Sunday's home opener against the Florida Marlins, followed by Johns and Arthur Rhodes.
On the dotted line
Eight more Orioles agreed to terms yesterday, meaning everyone is under contract for the 1999 season.
Deals were struck with pitchers Johns, Sidney Ponson, Rocky Coppinger, Gabe Molina and Julio Moreno, infielders Pickering and Ryan Minor, and outfielder Lyle Mouton.
Pub Date: 3/04/99