Miller had umbrella over Mussina in case

Ace was held back before O's 1st rainout since '97

June 08, 1999|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The Orioles finally caught a break last night. The weatherman got one right.

Faced with the likelihood of bumping scheduled starting pitcher Mike Mussina due to a dicey forecast, manager Ray Miller learned shortly after 7 p.m. that the game would be postponed and rescheduled as part of today's twinight doubleheader, beginning at 4: 05 p.m.

The rainout was the Orioles' first since June 2, 1997, vs. the Cleveland Indians -- a span of 273 games -- and their first postponement since a power outage halted an Aug. 14, 1997, game against the Seattle Mariners.

"It only happens when you're going good," quipped Miller.

The rainout not only allowed Miller to avoid a tough decision on Mussina -- he would have started Jason Johnson in his place -- but permitted him to rest a bullpen blown apart this month by injuries and poor performance.

"I was thinking about calling Moose in and saying, `You're going to pitch tomorrow' because I had the extra day to work with, it wouldn't bump him out of Atlanta and the other kid would be on six days' rest," Miller said.

Fearing unnecessary distraction, Miller never approached Johnson or pitching coach Bruce Kison about his plan but insisted a delay of more than 30 minutes before the first pitch would have caused him to switch.

Mussina didn't complain. Coming off a 133-pitch start against the Mariners on June 2, the extra day worked for him. He will start today's first game against Ryan Dempster, with Johnson starting the second game against Alex Fernandez. Mussina will still be able to start Sunday's series finale against the Braves.

"Making a decision this way benefits everybody in both clubhouses," said Mussina. "Nobody gets mentally ready. Nobody goes out and gets worked up for it. In my case, I don't throw an inning or two, have the game get stopped, then waste a turn while we still have to play two the next day."

Should there be another postponement today or tomorrow, the teams will play on Thursday's scheduled day off.

No one was looking at those contingencies last night. Instead, the Orioles took a breath after watching their bullpen take a beating on Sunday.

Through five games this month the bullpen has allowed 28 hits and 20 earned runs in 14 2/3 innings, a 12.28 ERA. The club yesterday placed right-handed middle reliever Mike Fetters on the disabled list because of what was initially diagnosed as a strained right elbow.

Charged with his second blown save for his role in Sunday's 11-7 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies, Fetters did not accompany the team to Florida and will be examined this morning by team orthopedic doctor Michael Jacobs. Miller said Fetters will miss as little as a week or as many as three to four weeks. The exiled Scott Kamieniecki was recalled from Triple-A Rochester and will be in the Orioles' bullpen, Miller said.

Left-handed reliever Arthur Rhodes could not pitch Sunday because of back soreness. Miller said yesterday that he was available last night. However, Rhodes' fluctuating status has created additional strain on a bullpen lacking an unchallenged closer.

"It's a good-news, bad-news situation," Miller said. "It gives Moose an extra day off coming off 130 pitches. That's good. It gives a dilapidated bullpen an extra day plus I get Kamieniecki here for a doubleheader in 90-degree heat. I think everybody can use the night off."

"Another day can't hurt," Mussina said. "I hope it doesn't hurt."

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