Oriole-in-waiting, Linton gets `lay of land' before Sunday

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Nonroster invitee stays with club until No. 5 turn

Reboulet full speed ahead

April 05, 1999|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Though Orioles manager Ray Miller still hasn't announced Doug Linton as his starter for Sunday's game against the Toronto Blue Jays, the veteran right-hander remains the favorite to take Scott Kamieniecki's turn in the rotation.

Miller said it's "probably 99 percent right now" that Linton will get the call when the Orioles need a fifth starter. For that reason, Linton is in Baltimore even though he's not part of the 25-man roster. He has a locker along the back wall of the clubhouse and took part in yesterday's workout at Camden Yards.

"I've got a week to get the lay of the land," Linton said.

"I'd love to be going out there on Opening Day. That's what everybody dreams of, but where I came from this year, I don't think too many people thought I'd be here. I'm very encouraged by what I've done."

A nonroster invitee to spring camp, Linton forced the club to take notice by allowing only two earned runs in 20 innings. He proved to be healthy after undergoing "Tommy John" surgery on his right elbow in 1997, and demonstrated an ability to get hitters out that contradicted his career 5.84 ERA in parts of five major-league seasons with four organizations. He spent all last season with Triple-A Salt Lake before finding his comfort zone -- and the strike zone -- in the Puerto Rican League.

Linton was among Miller's last two cuts, but can accomplish more by staying here. With Triple-A Rochester's season not beginning until Wednesday, the Orioles preferred that he throw with pitching coach Bruce Kison tomorrow and do a bullpen session Thursday.

"And I'll look at some films of Toronto, and hopefully it'll help me," said Linton, who pitched three innings, allowing one run, Saturday against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Not far from where Linton stood was a locker belonging to Jason Johnson, a hard-throwing right-hander who also had been cut Saturday. He didn't allow a run in four innings after being acquired last week in a trade with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, and the club seemed to be wavering on its commitment to Linton after seeing Johnson.

"Ray said to me [Saturday] that I basically made the team, but I'm not activated yet," Linton said. "He said when they need a fifth starter, I'll be it."

Kamieniecki's on the disabled list retroactive to March 25 with a strained hamstring. No additional damage was found during an examination yesterday by team orthopedic Dr. Michael Jacobs, and barring any complications, Kamieniecki will be sent later this week to the minor-league camp in Sarasota, Fla.

"He'll probably have several starts somewhere before he's ready to come back here," said general manager Frank Wren.

Mussina's healthy attitude

Mike Mussina glances at some of the new faces around him and says he likes this year's club. Then again, he liked what he saw last year, too, and everyone knows what happened.

"If we stay healthy, which was a big factor last year, we're going to have a good team. Things are going to work out for us. I believe that. But all 30 teams think that," Mussina said.

This will be Mussina's fifth Opening Day assignment, the first coming in 1994. He was reduced to being a spectator for the '97 game because of a calcium deposit in his right elbow.

"I think the only difference is it's a much more anticipated day than the other 161. That makes a big difference just because everybody else is so looking forward to that one game," he said.

"Being a player who's been through it a few times, you don't think too much about it. It's great to win the first game, it's great to get off on a good note, but if you don't, by no means is it the end of your season."

Mussina said he doesn't find a four-game sweep by the Devil Rays at Camden Yards last season additional motivation for today's opener -- largely because it's not a particularly clear memory. The night before that series, Mussina was struck above the right eye by a liner from the Cleveland Indians' Sandy Alomar.

"Was that after I got hit?" he asked reporters. "Then I probably don't even remember it. There are a lot of things I didn't pay much attention to for about a week."

DeShields to be `big boost'

Second baseman Delino DeShields, on the DL retroactive to March 25 with a fractured left thumb, will fly to Sarasota after today's game. The club wants him to play in three games there, then perhaps continue rehabbing over the weekend at Double-A Bowie.

DeShields, who hasn't played since a March 4 intrasquad game, is expected to be activated before the Orioles make their first trip, to New York on April 13.

"I'm very happy with our club, the way it's set up, and we haven't even seen DeShields," Miller said. "He's going to be a big boost to the ballclub when he comes back. He'll probably be at the bottom of the order until he gets going, then we can adjust things accordingly. One player sometimes really makes a lot of things different."

DeShields' place in the lineup will be taken by Jeff Reboulet, who has noted significant improvement in his sore left heel.

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