Miller hedges on giving Coppinger a second start

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Linton, Burrows, Johnson considered

Kamieniecki could get call vs. Cuba

April 29, 1999|By Joe Strauss and Roch Kubatko | Joe Strauss and Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Ray Miller wasn't kidding when he mentioned earlier this week that his club can not afford to look beyond its next game. Three days before Saturday afternoon's game against the Minnesota Twins, the Orioles manager was still unable last night to name his starting pitcher, leaving open the possibility that scheduled starter Rocky Coppinger might be bounced.

Though Coppinger's name has been stenciled onto Miller's projected rotation, Sunday's abortive, 1 1/3-inning start against Oakland has left Miller with second thoughts.

"I don't know right now," Miller said when asked about his rotation beyond tomorrow night's series opener vs. the Twins. "I'm still working on that."

Miller could reconsider his exile of Doug Linton to the bullpen. Linton made two starts, going five and 6 1/3 innings, before moving aside for Coppinger. However, Linton's appearance in long relief last night argues against that.

Having impressed Rochester manager Dave Machemer with his velocity and improved game management, Coppinger went the other way with Miller. His tedious 57-pitch start included only one hit but six walks. Miller even broached the possibility of Triple-A left-hander Terry Burrows, who carried a no-hitter into the ninth inning in his last start. However, Burrows is not on the 40-man roster, complicating such a move.

Jason Johnson, acquired for outfielder Danny Clyburn March 29, is already on the 40-man roster, making him the call-up of least resistance.

Miller sounded more confident of his starter for Monday's exhibition against a Cuban all-star team. Scott Kamieniecki is tentatively scheduled to take the turn should tonight's rehab start at Single-A Frederick go as planned. Kamieniecki began the season on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring and has not appeared since. Following the Cuba exhibition, Kamieniecki is expected to rejoin the rotation, possibly at the expense of Sidney Ponson.

Kamieniecki was less than thrilled with Sunday's rehab start at Double-A Bowie, when he was hit hard for three innings before steadying in the fourth and fifth innings.

"I wouldn't use the word optimistic," Kamieniecki said about his expectation of meeting Miller's timetable. "I always get in trouble when I use that word."

Kamieniecki hasn't won since April 18, 1998, and has made only five starts since last May 22.

"He's been a missing factor for us," Miller said. "If he pitches like he did in '97 for us it could go a long way toward straightening us out."

Coppinger, who threw in the bullpen Tuesday, blamed his wildness on being too strong, which brought disappointment so great he sat with his face buried in a towel after being removed.

"It was one of those days where I wanted to do too much too soon," he said. "The excitement got to me and that's what happens. I just sat there and told myself, `You're better than this.' I had the opportunity to show I was healthy and ready to pitch in the big leagues again. That's why it was so disappointing."

Coppinger had good velocity, with his fastball hitting 95 mph. "I felt great, but you have to be smart about it and understand that just because you feel great doesn't mean you're going to do good," he said. "Like most pitchers say, they throw some of their best games when they don't feel good. Hopefully, the next time I go out there I won't feel good at all."

But when will that next time come, and where? "Your guess is as good as mine," he said.

"I'm not going to look over my shoulder like I did a couple years ago. If [Miller's] going to take me into his office, what can I do about it? It's their decision. If he gives me another opportunity to go out there and pitch, I'm going to do well. That's all I can hope for, to get another chance.

"A lot of you guys [reporters] say, `This is your last chance here with the Orioles.' I can pitch. I know that. If this is my last chance with the Orioles, there are other teams."

Pickering decision looms

Miller said the club will take another look at Calvin Pickering tonight before deciding if the power-hitting first baseman is ready to be recalled from Triple-A Rochester.

Pickering has been limited to seven games this season because of inflammation in his right rotator cuff. He played for the first time in a week on Tuesday, driving in his first run, and was back in the Red Wings' lineup last night.

"Hopefully by the weekend he'll be here if everything's OK," Miller said. "It's not a given. He's got to be playing well."

Deep relief

Because it took 42 at-bats for catcher Charles Johnson to deliver his first home run and RBI of the season, he admitted to feeling a sense of relief as his drive to right field cleared the fence in Tuesday's 8-4 win over Kansas City.

"It's good to get it out of the way," he said. "Right now I'm just trying to have good at-bats and get my average back up. I hit a few balls hard the past few games. I just hope to continue doing that and my average will come back up."

It held at .159 because Miller started Lenny Webster behind the plate. Webster, who has two RBIs, went 1-for-3 to lift his average to .207.

Around the horn

Banners with the game logo from Monday's Orioles-Cuba exhibition will be displayed beginning today at the ballpark. The design is a multicolored baseball with the Orioles logo on an orange background and the Cuba white-on-red star with a blue-and-white striped star. Tonight is another College Night, with students able to purchase $13 upper reserved seats for $8 by calling 410-685-9800. Kansas City stole three bases in three tries and is 22-for-27 this season.

Pub Date: 4/29/99

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