O's goodwill package: Pickering, 3 others


Power prospect may join regulars in lineup vs. Cuba

May 03, 1999|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

The Orioles will add four minor-leaguers, including Triple-A first baseman Calvin Pickering, for tonight's exhibition game against a Cuban all-star team. The five starting pitchers have been removed from the roster, meaning the Orioles will be one player short.

Also coming to Baltimore are Double-A Bowie outfielder Eugene Kingsale, Bowie pitcher Maximo Heredia and Single-A Frederick closer Derek Brown.

Pickering was being watched by club officials again yesterday to make sure he was recovered from the inflammation in his right shoulder that had kept him out of the lineup. He began playing again on Tuesday and hit a three-run homer Friday night.

Manager Ray Miller said having the minor-leaguers here doesn't necessarily mean they'll be used tonight, though Pickering is expected to play first base. The game will dictate how the others are handled.

"If you have the game on the line, I have an obligation to use my players. Major League Baseball wants us to play our team," Miller said.

Lineup shuffle

By losing a day off because of tonight's exhibition, Miller used yesterday's game to rest a few veterans.

Jeff Reboulet started at third base and batted second, behind Delino DeShields, who filled Brady Anderson's leadoff role. Anderson was replaced in center field by Rich Amaral. Willis Otanez, who committed his fourth error Saturday, served as the designated hitter. And rookie Jesse Garcia started at shortstop in place of Mike Bordick, who is 7-for-44 (.159) in his last 12 games.

DeShields embraced the move, hitting the Orioles' third leadoff homer this season, and his first with his new club. Amaral also thrived in the eighth slot, going 2-for-3 with two RBIs, his first extra-base hit and first stolen base. And Reboulet singled, reached on an error and stole a base in four trips.

Bordick had started every game, and batted second in all but one.

"I said I didn't want anybody to play every day but he had played so darn well," Miller said of Bordick, who hit .347 through the first 11 games.

"He might be the one guy that I pick up fairly early [tonight] and that would give him almost like two days off and really freshen him up a little bit. Mike plays hard."

Bordick said yesterday that he still feels good, though he also acknowledged that losing has been a strain.

"It's still early in the year. I could have played, no problem," he said.

"Especially with this streak we've kind of been going through, it hasn't been too good and everybody is probably a little mentally drained. I think winning today was good for everybody. It gets us back on a positive note."

B. J. Surhoff and Albert Belle are the only Orioles to start every game.

Miller met with his coaching staff Saturday night to discuss the lineup. One idea was to play both catchers, using one as the DH, "but it's really hard to lock both of them in," Miller said.

Garcia's familiar turf

Garcia hadn't started at shortstop since spring training, and played there only a few times two years ago at Double-A Bowie. He handled all three chances yesterday.

"I felt comfortable. I like it," he said.

Though Garcia twice has been named the Eastern League's best defensive second baseman by Baseball America, he had no reservations about treading on more unfamiliar ground.

"It's just different from second base," said Garcia, who was 0-for-4 at the plate to fall to .125 in eight at-bats. "I get to show my arm off a little bit."

Thoughts on Cuba

Unlike the March 28 exhibition in Havana, Miller hasn't found the buildup to tonight's game as distracting. That doesn't mean he relishes the timing of it, though.

"Obviously, you'd like to give the club a day off, but you can't do that. You have to approach it just like a game," he said.

"It was an extreme distraction in spring training because for two straight weeks we were trying to get the visas worked out, trying to get birth certificates. Some guys didn't have passports. Take 25 people in your family and try to find their birth certificates if they've never traveled out of the country. It's not that easy to do. And the fact we were in southern Florida and we were dealing with Cuban sensitivity and the press every day. It really put a lot of importance on the game."

Jeff Conine missed the trip to Havana because he wasn't acquired from the Kansas City Royals until later in the spring. This will be his first Cuban experience.

"Our days off are few and far between, so you kind of cherish them. But it's an exhibition, two countries going at it and I'm sure it'll be fun," he said.

"I think it's good for the game of baseball itself, as far as progressing internationally. The Cubans always have one of the best teams in the world, so it's good in that way."

Around the horn

The national anthem will be sung tonight by Mark Delavan of the Baltimore Opera. Gates will open an hour early, at 5 p.m. Fans will be able to purchase items such as pork sandwiches, chicken and ribs, black beans and rice, as well as Cuban beers and specialty drinks like "mohito." Ex-Oriole Leo Gomez tripled home a run as the first-place Chunichi Dragons beat the Yomiuri Giants, 3-2, in Tokyo.

Pub Date: 5/03/99

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