In need of mechanic, Guzman pulls off road


Struggling starter held back day as he fine-tunes form

Belle talks to Chi. papers

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

One day after being chased early from another start, Orioles right-hander Juan Guzman knew he needed a different approach to his problem. Manager Ray Miller and pitching coach Bruce Kison realized it even sooner, making the decision after the game to have Guzman switch places in the rotation with Scott Erickson for the series against Chicago.

Guzman, who had been scheduled to pitch last night, was held back until tonight.

"I wanted to do a couple bullpens before my next start," said Guzman, who allowed six runs in 3 1/3 innings against Kansas City last Wednesday, bumping his ERA to 8.10 and leaving him winless in three decisions.

"Mechanically, I've been off a little bit. Actually, my two bullpens corrected it, but it's something I need to keep working on. It's going to be better. I need to keep everything down in the strike zone and I've been up a little bit."

And he's been getting hit, largely because of his tendency to open up too much as he strides to the plate.

"He felt uncomfortable with his mechanics," Miller said. "He and Bruce have done two or three sidelines and spent numerous hours in the video room making sure they got everything right and he visually sees what he's doing. He just needed the extra time."

Pickering up, Garcia down

As expected, the Orioles added first baseman Calvin Pickering to the roster yesterday and sent middle infielder Jesse Garcia to Triple-A Rochester for the second time this season.

Pickering was batting .297 (11-for-37) with one homer and eight RBIs in 11 games. He didn't start last night because the White Sox were throwing a left-hander, Mike Sirotka. He came on to pinch hit in the eighth inning and walked before striking out to end the ninth.

Club officials made sure Pickering had recovered from the inflammation in his right shoulder before calling him up.

"There's no pain at all. I'm 100 percent ready to go," he said.

Pickering suffered the injury in his last at-bat in the second game of the season after swinging "funny" at a pitch.

If not for the injury, Pickering would have been recalled when Will Clark went on the disabled list retroactive to April 19 with a fractured thumb.

"Things happen for a reason. That's how I look at it," said Pickering, the Eastern League's Player of the Year at Double-A Bowie last season.

Belle opens up

Albert Belle took the opportunity of his former White Sox team coming to town to break his silence with the media. Well, with the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times, anyway.

The Orioles right fielder said there are some comparisons between the faltering Orioles and the White Sox teams he was expected to revive in 1997 and '98.

"It's pretty much the same situation," Belle acknowledged in an interview Sunday. "But one guy is not able to turn an organization around. It takes all 25 players, the coaching staff, the management and the organization. You can't just depend on one guy to do it. That's what I learned from '97."

He refused to get on the bandwagon calling for Miller's dismissal, saying, "Ray's OK. He's under tremendous pressure to win, especially with the high payroll. You never can say anything bad about a manager who wants you to bat cleanup and play the outfield every day."

Belle said there is a reason he has more stolen bases (six) than home runs through 25 games. "I've got to run with all the walks I'm getting," he said. "I've got to do something."

Despite a sometimes sullen persona, he said he has found contentment in his last two cities.

"I was happy for two years there, and I'm happy here in Baltimore," said Belle. "It's completely turned around from '96 when I was angry at the world."

And he isn't ready to write off the season.

"April wasn't very good for a lot of us here," Belle said. "We've kind of dug ourselves a hole, and now we're trying to get out of it."

Not long on relief

By using Doug Linton and Ricky Bones out of the bullpen Monday against Cuba, Miller had a shortage of long relievers last night. If Erickson had made a quick exit, Rocky Coppinger would have been pressed into duty after throwing 90 pitches in Saturday's start.

Linton, who went 1 2/3 innings Monday, said he could have been used last night if needed.

"Eight or 10 Tylenol and I'll be OK," he said.

Miller said yesterday that he prefers keeping Linton in the bullpen, though the right-hander pitched into the seventh inning in his last start April 17 in Toronto, allowing five runs and taking the loss. Working on a stricter pitch count April 11, he permitted two runs in five innings against the Blue Jays.

"There's a definite decline after three or four innings when he's fresh," Miller said.

Coppinger's next turn comes Saturday in Detroit, but the club might activate Scott Kamieniecki from the DL and insert him in the rotation. Miller will watch Kamieniecki throw on the side today before making a decision.

"I think it's about time for him to step up," Miller said. "If his arm and body are at a point where he can throw 90 pitches, then it's time to get him pitching."

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