Ailing Fetters out, Kamieniecki in

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Elbow puts reliever on DL

Florida welcomes Conine

June 08, 1999|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

MIAMI -- Convinced that Mike Fetters will miss significant time because of a sore elbow, the Orioles placed the veteran reliever on the disabled list yesterday and activated pitcher Scott Kamieniecki.

Fetters will be examined in Baltimore today by team orthopedic doctor Michael Jacobs. Club officials initially have termed the ailment a right elbow strain, but manager Ray Miller said he was told by Jacobs on Sunday that Fetters could be out anywhere from one to six weeks, "depending on what's wrong with him."

Fetters, 34, who pitched through a calf injury while with Anaheim last season, said his elbow began throbbing while he warmed up before entering Sunday's game against Philadelphia in the sixth inning. He dismissed the pain as normal stiffness and didn't mention it to Miller or his coaches, then served up a tie-breaking, two-run homer to the fourth batter he faced, Scott Rolen.

Signed to a minor-league contract over the winter, Fetters is 1-0 with a 5.48 ERA in 20 appearances covering 23 innings. His ERA was 3.38 through his first 14 appearances, but he's given up eight earned runs and 15 hits in his last seven innings.

Kamieniecki was expected to join the Orioles in Florida last night after making his fourth start at Triple-A Rochester on Saturday and convincing club officials he was healthy and again able to locate his pitches. He allowed two runs and three hits in eight innings against Columbus.

This was a significant improvement over his previous outing, when he permitted six runs in six innings, and the start before that, when he left after three innings with stiffness in his lower back.

"All four of his pitches were working, and working well," said general manager Frank Wren.

Kamieniecki began the year on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring. He reported to the club's minor-league complex in Sarasota, Fla., on April 12 and later made two rehab starts at Double-A Bowie and Single-A Frederick. He started the May 3 game against a Cuban all-star team at Oriole Park, lasting only 1 1/3 innings and allowing four runs, throwing only 16 of 53 pitches for strikes.

He was activated from the DL on May 8 and made two starts for the Orioles, going 0-2 with a 23.40 ERA. In danger of being released, he accepted an option to Rochester on May 20 with an agreement that he would rejoin the club within 20 days.

Kamieniecki will pitch out of the bullpen while the club decides his fate. He could remain there or rejoin the rotation -- most likely at the expense of Jason Johnson, who makes his fourth Orioles start today. The club also could attempt to trade Kamieniecki.

"Apparently, his health is OK. We'll find out," Miller said. "Right now, I want somebody who can come in and throw the ball over the plate. That would be a start."

The Orioles also considered Doug Linton as a replacement for Fetters, but he went eight innings in a Sunday start at Rochester, eliminating himself as a candidate. He began the season with the Orioles before joining the Red Wings on May 17.

Hero's welcome

Jeff Conine couldn't take a step away from his locker before yesterday's rainout without bumping into someone from Florida's print or broadcast media. His return to Pro Player Stadium for the first time since helping the Marlins win the 1997 World Series was big news here.

Conine, one of the original Marlins, was traded to Kansas City after the championship season, where he remained until being acquired by the Orioles for pitcher Chris Fussell late in spring training.

"The way I left [Florida] wasn't the best of circumstances, but it's great to be back and to be home," he said.

"It's a weird feeling not to go to that side of the stadium and into that clubhouse, but life goes on."

So does his hot spell. Conine had three hits Sunday to raise his average to .365 (38-for-104) in his last 30 games with eight doubles, four homers and 17 RBIs.

If only he could enjoy it more. His personal gains aren't as satisfying with the Orioles 13 games under .500 and unable to build the same momentum as his own.

"It's disappointing," he said. "There's a lot of talent here, a lot of big names. Everyone knows we're capable of playing better than this, but we haven't shown it."

Night the roof fell in

The last time the Orioles were here for a three-game series in 1997 their dugout roof collapsed from the weight of the Marlins mascot, sending players and coaches scattering.

Mike Mussina had just gotten up from the spot where most of the debris hit.

"I wish I had been under that roof when it fell," said Miller, who was the pitching coach that season. "I thought, `Get under it, get under it,' but then I went, `Nah, I better not.'

"The worst part was Mussina had just turned around and went the other way. That's right where it fell. How's that for a lawsuit? That would have been a $30, $40 million income coming in."

Around the horn

The Orioles have a 8-20 road record, the worst in the majors. They're on pace to win 23, which would be the third-lowest total in franchise history. The 1988 club went 20-61 on the road, and the 1954 club went 22-55. The Marlins signed former Orioles outfielder Jerome Walton to a Triple-A contract. Walton, 34, most recently played for the Newark Bears of the independent Atlantic League, where he hit .370 with two homers.

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