Jays take Otanez, but Miller not worried

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

He criticizes `retention,' bat, field flaws of `good kid'

Rhodes urged to hurry up

May 29, 1999|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Orioles and third baseman Willis Otanez officially parted ways yesterday when the Toronto Blue Jays claimed the 26-year-old rookie off waivers.

The loss was noted by a number of Otanez's ex-teammates but manager Ray Miller downplayed the significance of his transferring to an American League East foe. The Orioles obtained Otanez through a waiver claim after the 1996 season and were resigned to losing him in the same manner when they attempted to remove him from the major-league roster earlier this week.

"I guess anything could happen, but you sit here and after a month or so, what you know and what you see, it's kind of hard to put him in for defense and you feel if they don't throw strikes he's going to swing. If his career continues that way for any length of time I'm not worried about him being with Toronto," Miller said.

"He's a good kid, but Crow [hitting coach Terry Crowley] got frustrated with his retention. You try to get him to stay with basic things. He does it on the side, but then he gets in a game and he reverts."

Otanez batted .213 with 16 strikeouts in 80 at-bats before being designated for assignment on Tuesday. The Blue Jays, who recently released former Oriole Willie Greene, had a need for a backup third baseman as well as a right-handed bat. Miller hardly flinched at the claim by a division rival, citing the availability of Ryan Minor at Triple-A Rochester.

"From what I've seen since I've been here, I feel like Ryan Minor is better in the same situation simply because he's a better athlete with some power," Miller said.

Otanez's struggles while replacing Cal Ripken stirred concerns. Especially problematic was his inconsistent defense, which Miller believed deteriorated when Otanez slumped at the plate.

"If you're an average or above average defensive player, you can be a lot more patient with the offensive part of it," he said. "It wasn't like it was just my opinion; it was everybody's opinion."

On the slow Rhodes

Miller elaborated yesterday on the complications involved with using Arthur Rhodes on short notice. A former starter, Rhodes still requires an extended warm-up period to prepare for a relief appearance, something which makes his role as co-closer cumbersome.

"Arthur gets up there and he waits for the ball before he gets back on [the rubber]. Just hurry up and get your 10 throws in. You can't take 10 seconds between each throw," said Miller. "Just throw some pitches quick. You're going to get eight more once you get in the game."

Bordick draws raves

Upon further review, Miller's praise of a double play turned by shortstop Mike Bordick in Thursday's third inning only grew.

With one out and runners at first and second, Darin Erstad grounded sharply to pitcher Juan Guzman. What looked to be a routine play almost turned calamitous when Guzman short-hopped Bordick, leaving him exposed to an approaching Randy Velarde. Bordick picked the bounce, jumped over Velarde and completed the relay to end the inning.

"He's a pretty awesome athlete to make that play," Miller said. "With that guy right on top of him he got in the air and still made a strong throw. He got cut on the ankle doing it."

Miller said he contemplated resting Bordick last night but realized he would have a fight on his hands. Bordick, who went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts, played in Oakland the first six years of his career and owns 16 RBIs in 89 career at-bats against his former team.

Davis-Johnson paired

Miller says he will likely give rookie catcher Tommy Davis his first major-league start today as Jason Johnson (0-1) receives his second start for the Orioles. Davis caught Johnson at Triple-A Rochester before the former Tampa Bay Devil Ray was promoted.

Davis has appeared in three games since being summoned May 14 to replace Lenny Webster, who is on the disabled list.

Around the horn

B. J. Surhoff is 0-for-12 since his 15-game hitting streak ended Tuesday. Last night was just the fourth game in 25 this month the Orioles didn't homer. Brady Anderson's grand slam in Thursday's 6-3 win was the sixth of his career. Miller didn't include Will Clark in last night's lineup against knuckleballer Tom Candiotti. The combination of wind chill, Candiotti's goofball pitch and Clark's recent return from a broken thumb persuaded Miller to instead start Jeff Conine at first. Clark was hitting .227 lifetime against Candiotti while Conine had reached him for a .324 average and two home runs in 34 at-bats. Conine went 1-for-3. Jesse Orosco is 10 appearances shy of Kent Tekulve's record of 1,050 career relief appearances. Rich Amaral batted only .053 in April (1-for-19) but is hitting .357 (10-for-28) in May. Double-A Bowie placed pitcher Scott Gentile on the DL, reinstated catcher Tim DeCinces and sent catcher Mike Lopez-Cao to Single-A Frederick.

Pub Date: 5/29/99

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