Shifting role proved unsettling for Linton

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Demoted pitcher speaks out

Clark takes batting practice

Notebook

May 16, 1999|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STRAUSS

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Pitcher Doug Linton remained with the Orioles yesterday but not as part of their active roster. Officially optioned to Triple-A Rochester, he will accompany the team home after this afternoon's series finale against the Texas Rangers and then join the Red Wings in Charlotte.

Linton, who compiled an 0-1 record and a 6.17 ERA in eight games, said he was bewildered over a role that shifted from starting to long relief last month and that his declining performance was influenced by the move. Linton was 0-1 with a 5.56 ERA in two starts covering 11 1/3 innings. He experienced inconsistent control out of the bullpen, walking nine in 12 innings. Manager Ray Miller eventually grew impatient with the trend and pushed for Linton's demotion to make room for left-hander Doug Johns.

Linton, who survived spring training as a nonroster player, was irritated over his move to the bullpen but held his tongue. He let it fly after the roster move.

"I'm not ripping on anybody else, but if you look at what I did in my two starts compared to Rocky [Coppinger] and Kammy [Scott Kamieniecki], I think mine compare pretty well." Linton said.

Linton was bumped from the rotation to make room for Coppinger, who was 0-1 with a 13.50 ERA and allowed 18 base runners covering 6 2/3 innings in two starts. Since returning from the disabled list, Kamieniecki has gone 0-2 with a 23.40 ERA and 17 base runners allowed in five innings. Kamieniecki is now expected to be bumped from the rotation in favor of Jason Johnson, who has waited his turn at Rochester.

"I didn't really understand it when it happened," Linton said of the switch. "Frankly, I was somewhat surprised. I was able to give them some innings and get some people out. They made the decision."

Linton has a history of arm problems and has difficulty warming up in a hurry. The problem manifests itself in relief as Linton's eroding effectiveness has caused him to allow 40 base runners in 23 1/3 innings overall. "A lot of guys would rather start an inning, but we don't always have that luxury," Miller said.

Johns opened the season with the Orioles but was optioned on April 11. With Rochester, he started six games, compiling a 4.85 ERA and a 1-1 record. His most recent effort was a seven-inning complete game Tuesday against Richmond in the front end of a doubleheader. Miller projected he would return to long relief as the third left-hander in the bullpen. Mike Fetters will assume Johns' spot in the Rochester rotation.

Originally scheduled to be tried June 2 for marijuana possession and driving while intoxicated, Johns said yesterday he has received a continuance until after the season.

BP for Clark

First baseman Will Clark reached a significant marker yesterday in his return from a broken thumb. Clark took batting practice for the first time since April 18 and gloved throws at his position. Miller and hitting coach Terry Crowley gave positive feedback.

Miller stopped short of projecting when Clark might return, and the first baseman declined to speak about his session. "That's his call," Miller said. "He's gone off the tee. Now he's gone for the first time live. He was even out there picking some balls in the dirt. He looked pretty good."

Miller can hardly wait for Clark to return so he has the option of holding back a left-handed bat against right-handed pitching. Designated hitter Harold Baines played his eighth consecutive game last night and Miller would like to find a place to rest him. The Orioles haven't seen a left-hander since Detroit's Justin Thompson on the first game of the road trip.

A swipe for Rodriguez

What initially was ruled fielder's indifference Friday night became a stolen base for Rangers catcher Ivan Rodriguez yesterday. An official scorer's review of game film revealed that first baseman Jeff Conine was holding Rodriguez on his delayed steal in the seventh inning with Tom Goodwin at third. Rodriguez paused in the baseline, gestured, and continued to second without drawing a throw from catcher Charles Johnson.

The steal was Rodriguez's 10th of the season, tying him with the Pittsburgh Pirates' Jason Kendall for the major-league lead among catchers.

Given that the play occurred with two outs in a tie game, Miller defended the decision not to make a throw on Rodriguez by citing the likelihood of Goodwin breaking for the plate.

"I don't like our chances of making a throw and beating him back to the plate with the relay," Miller said.

Around the horn

Miller said he intends to speak today with Kamieniecki about his future with the club. Should the club follow through on its promise of a staff overhaul, Kamieniecki could be moved to the bullpen or released. The Orioles' bullpen entered last night with a 5.18 ERA and has allowed runs in 24 of 34 games. While Miller has been encouraged at times, he remains concerned about a failure to halt rallies. Relievers had allowed 22 of 60 inherited runners to score (37 percent). Albert Belle is hitting .298 (14-for-47) this month compared to .234 (18-for-77) in April. Belle gave away an out on the bases for a second straight game last night when he attempted a delayed steal. Cal Ripken's home run Friday night off John Wetteland was No. 385 of his career, tying him with Dwight Evans for 34th all-time. His double earlier in the game left him with 347, 13 shy of bench coach Eddie Murray for 16th on the all-time list.

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