Miller uses selective recall on Cuba

Camden crisis better left unsaid, unnoticed

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

Sitting behind his desk before last night's game against the Chicago White Sox, Orioles manager Ray Miller was asked to reflect on Monday's exhibition against a Cuban all-star team. His mind clicked into rewind mode, then fast-forward. Missing was his ability, or perhaps willingness, to cue it up to the evening in question.

"We had a good weekend against Minnesota," he said, referring to the Orioles' first series win of the year, "and I'm looking forward to playing Chicago."

Nowhere was mention made of the Cuban crisis. Veteran move. Better to leave it alone and hope nobody notices.

If the air in Miller's office had a brown tinge, it's because not all of the dust had settled from the 12-6 beating administered to the Orioles at Camden Yards. They took a 2-0 lead in the first inning, then took it on the chin. Even one of the umpires tried to get in a few licks, first going after an overzealous fan, then left fielder B.J. Surhoff.

The only escape for the Orioles -- who knew they would be the team seeking one? -- was a 56-minute rain delay in the first inning.

It didn't last long enough for first baseman Calvin Pickering, who committed three errors after being called up from Triple-A Rochester.

"I'm just going to forget about it, come back today and play my game," he said. "The first one, it was hit hard and I was trying to get in front of it and it happened to hit off the glove. I wasn't thinking about it after that, but a couple more things happened."

Few of them good. The Orioles were out-hit, 18-6, and needed a three-run homer in the ninth by Delino DeShields to keep the score from being more lopsided. Fans booed. Some wore brown paper bags on their heads, appropriate attire on a night when starter Scott Kamieniecki was sacked after 1 1/3 innings.

Lacking command and interest, Kamieniecki's third rehab start lasted 53 pitches. Only sixteen were strikes.

Miller met with general manager Frank Wren yesterday to discuss whether Kamieniecki is ready to come off the disabled list.

"I said I really don't think it's a fair judgment of his abilities off the situation," Miller said. "It was pretty much a zoo, from starting the game 12-13 minutes late, which is an eternity when you're warming up, to pitching the first inning on a wet mound and slipping and sliding."

To make sure Kamieniecki didn't stiffen during the delay, he was instructed to throw every 10 minutes. "As far as judging his ability, that was probably the worst scenario in the world," Miller said, adding that he'll watch Kamieniecki throw on the side today to get a better read.

At least Kamieniecki only had the weather and hitters to worry about. Surhoff ended up in a scuf- fle with Cuban umpire Cesar Valdez in the fifth inning, his attempts at playing peacemaker almost backfiring.

Valdez body-slammed an anti-Castro protester in shallow center field and landed several blows before security arrived. Surhoff ran over to pull Valdez off the intruder, and the two became tangled.

"I thought he was just cutting the guy off. Once he started throwing punches, I thought it was a good idea to try to break it up," Surhoff said.

"It was kind of like when you get in a tussle when the benches clear, guys just kind of pushing. It wasn't me he was mad at. I was just pass-blocking."

Valdez apologized to Surhoff before the next inning, but didn't sound as though he regretted his actions. "Above all, I am Cuban and I don't have any reason for accepting such a lack of respect," he said. "I did that because that was the right way to handle it."

The Orioles couldn't help but feel they were in the wrong place. Unlike the March 28 game in Havana, where the only interruption was to the exhibition schedule, the timing of Monday's people-to-people exchange was bad-to-worse. They were promised a day off. Instead, they had an off-night.

It was a game the Orioles couldn't win, Surhoff said, no matter the outcome.

"If we win, we're supposed to," he said. "If we don't, we're bums."

Pub Date: 5/05/99

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