ATLANTA -- The Orioles will place starting pitcher Scott Kamieniecki and second baseman Delino DeShields on the disabled list today retroactively and now concede that Kamieniecki will be out of the starting rotation until at least the end of the month.
In order to backdate injuries [to March 25 in the two Orioles' case], teams must place players on the disabled list by 12 tonight. There has been no question about either player's status to open the season, but the duration of Kamieniecki's unavailability due to a strained hamstring remains a riddle.
DeShields has not faced live pitching since suffering a broken left thumb during a March 4 intrasquad game. He took batting practice for the first time on Thursday in Viera, Fla., and again yesterday. DeShields felt slight discomfort but nothing to sidetrack his aggressive schedule.
"I'm going to keep going unless the hand tells me otherwise," he said. "So far I'm encouraged."
The Orioles originally believed DeShields would miss at least two weeks before being activated. Manager Ray Miller said yesterday that DeShields could return even sooner if he makes sufficient progress during a rehab assignment at the team's Sarasota minor-league complex.
Kamieniecki, who has made only four starts since last May 23, represents more of a concern.
"He would have to go out and make a number of starts until he's ready to come back here," general manager Frank Wren said. "It really depends on him. How quickly he goes down there. How quickly he gets his pitch count up."
The Orioles originally expected Kamieniecki might be scratched from his first scheduled start against the Toronto Blue Jays on April 11 then return to the rotation. However, his inability to return to the mound since has put him in a position of having to start his spring program anew.
Wren and Miller won't say who will take his spot in the rotation. However, Wren seemed to leave open the possibility that Jason Johnson, whom the Orioles acquired from Tampa Bay on Wednesday, could overtake nonroster pitcher Doug Linton.
"How many starts we need him for could affect the decision," said Wren. The GM confirmed that remaining roster decisions involve only pitchers.
Otanez feels the pinch
While Willis Otanez apparently will make the Orioles' Opening Day roster, his role decreased significantly yesterday with the acquisition of Kansas City Royals outfielder/first baseman Jeff Conine for pitcher Chris Fussell.
Otanez had appeared locked in a battle with Chris Hoiles for the right-handed DH role, but he will now have to wait for at-bats behind the former All-Star.
Otanez's standing has suffered the past two weeks as he followed a strong start with undisciplined at-bats and spotty defense.
"He would have a role on this club, but I don't think it would be as magnified a role as Conine's," said Wren.
Otanez is hitting .189 this spring with three home runs. Out of minor-league options, he must remain with the club or be put through waivers.
"At this level you have to earn your time for the manager to play you. If you're a prospect in the minor leagues, you're going to play. Here, no one is a prospect. You have to produce," Wren said.
By the numbers
The Orioles entered last night's 9-1 exhibition loss to the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field batting .245, lowest in the majors. Houston was batting .248 while the second-lowest AL club, the Minnesota Twins, was scraping by at .266. The Twins, Toronto and Orioles are the only AL teams averaging fewer than five runs per game.
The Orioles' 20 home runs also represented an exhibition low, though they can partially cite a 26-game schedule, lightest in either league.
Before the nine-run deluge, the Orioles led both leagues in ERA at 3.36. Boston (3.91) was the only other AL team below 4.00.
Around the horn
Miller made one of the more unusual moves this spring when he worked a double-switch with one out in the sixth inning. He summoned Jesse Orosco from the bullpen to face Ozzie Guillen and replaced left fielder B. J. Surhoff with Rich Amaral. Miller made a duplicate move in the seventh inning when he replaced Orosco with Ricky Bones and inserted Esteban Beltre at third base. The Orioles trailed 5-0 before managing their only run off Braves starter John Smoltz in the fourth. Albert Belle scored Will Clark, who led off the inning with a double. The RBI gave Belle 10 this spring, tying him with Mike Bordick for second-most on the club. Bordick and Surhoff accounted for the Orioles' remaining hits. The Orioles signed outfielder Jose Herrera to a minor-league contract.
Pub Date: 4/03/99