Lacking winning hand, Miller reshuffles deck

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Anderson, DeShields, Baines sit vs. left-hander

Johnson slump deepens

April 23, 1999|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- So much for lineup consistency.

The presence of left-handed starter Tony Saunders, the Orioles' five-game losing streak and manager Ray Miller's dwindling patience led Miller to devise his most creative lineup of the season last night against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Brady Anderson, Delino DeShields and Harold Baines were out. Rich Amaral, Jeff Reboulet and Lenny Webster as designated hitter were in.

"I just thought I'd get a little different look in there against a left-hander," said Miller. "We're coming off a long series with a lot of games on [artificial] turf. That beats on you."

Amaral, who entered hitless in eight at-bats, received his second start in place of the sore-kneed Anderson and rewarded Miller with consecutive running catches in the second inning to rob Devil Rays catcher John Flaherty and left fielder Quinton McCracken. Amaral also took over the leadoff spot, working a walk in the first inning before being robbed by first baseman Wade Boggs in his next at-bat, preserving a no-hit bid that Saunders would carry until Mike Bordick's two-out single in the eighth.

Having spread 11 at-bats over seven games, Reboulet started his fifth game of the season but only his first since DeShields came off the disabled list April 11.

"Delino's pressing a little bit," said Miller, referring to DeShield's .103 average in 29 at-bats since leaving the DL. "He knows he's better than his numbers. But all he needs is one 3-for-4 and his numbers are back where they belong."

Webster continues to receive steady playing time after wondering aloud this spring how the presence of catcher Charles Johnson would affect his workload. Webster started his sixth game, and first as DH, leaving him with appearances in nine games.

Though Johnson started last night, his offense is becoming an issue. The Gold Glove catcher is batting .182 with 11 strikeouts, one run, one extra-base hit and no RBIs in 33 at-bats. Trying to learn a new pitching staff at the same time he learns a new league's hitters, Johnson is hitting .160 (4-for-25) against right-handed pitching compared to .250 (2-for-8) -- .400 before last night -- vs. left-handers.

So far B. J. Surhoff, Albert Belle and Bordick have started every game. Webster became Miller's fourth designated hitter. Willis Otanez has received seven starts at third base compared to eight by Cal Ripken, now on the disabled list.

Miller rejects sympathy

Every visiting writer or television type can't wait to ask Miller about the speculation his job is in jeopardy. Miller has handled the indelicate questions with patience. However, he is not much more comfortable with the occasional words of support offered by his players.

"Guys come in and say, `We're with you, skip.' I appreciate it, but the best thing we can do is win some games," Miller said.

Miller met with his coaching staff yesterday and encouraged them to reject any self-pity while continuing to work toward turning around a miserable month.

A familiar face

Scott Kamieniecki rejoined the team yesterday after making a successful start Wednesday at the Orioles' minor-league facility in Sarasota, Fla.

Kamieniecki accompanied the team back to Baltimore and will make another rehab appearance Sunday for Double-A Bowie.

If his rehabilitation continues from a strained hamstring suffered March 19, Kamieniecki may be activated early next month. Before the injury, Kamieniecki was having an encouraging spring following fusion surgery on his neck.

Around the horn

Saunders' seven walks matched his career high. Belle has walked in 10 of 15 games, including his first two plate appearances last night. Fox Sports Net has obtained the telecast rights to the exhibition game between the Orioles and members of the Cuban National Team on May 3 at Camden Yards. Ageless left-hander Jesse Orosco turned 42 on Wednesday. He celebrated by not participating in a 14-8 Devil Rays blitz. The Orioles sent 17-year-old Dominican shortstop Angel Bolivar Volquez to Tampa Bay as the player to be named in the Jason Johnson-for-Danny Clyburn trade March 29. Before going 0-for-3 last night, Otanez had hit in six of his last eight games, going 9-for-23 (.391). The Devil Rays outscored the Orioles 20-11 in the series. Tampa Bay shortstop Kevin Stocker was a late scratch with back stiffness.

Pub Date: 4/23/99

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