Kamieniecki back -- in loss column

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

In better health, spirits, he yields 2 runs in eighth

June 09, 1999|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Scott Kamieniecki's return to the Orioles didn't begin on the smoothest of notes. After enduring a bumpy landing on his flight from Rochester, N.Y., he arrived at Pro Player Stadium around 9 p.m. Monday, only to find the gates locked and the lights turned out. With the game having been postponed because of heavy rain, Kamieniecki instructed the cabdriver to take him to the team hotel.

His luck stayed the same last night.

Having officially joined the club before yesterday's doubleheader, Kamieniecki was charged with the loss in the nightcap after Florida scored twice off him in the eighth inning for a 5-3 victory that completed their sweep. Kamieniecki, 35, got through the seventh unscathed after replacing starter Jason Johnson, but opened the eighth by allowing a single to Dave Berg, a triple to Tim Hyers and single to Bruce Aven. He was removed for Mike Timlin, who got the last three outs.

Kamieniecki was coming off the most impressive of his four starts at Rochester and proclaimed his left hamstring free of pain. He hadn't pitched for the Orioles since allowing seven runs in 3 1/3 innings of a May 13 start in Texas, lowering his ERA to 23.40 and raising the ire of manager Ray Miller.

Miller was in a more forgiving mood last night, saying, "Kammy did look better than he did when he was here before."

After leaving his second start at Rochester because of stiffness in his lower back -- which he blamed on the cold, wet conditions -- Kamieniecki gave up six runs in six innings in his third outing. Due one more appearance with the Red Wings before being brought back by the Orioles, he limited Columbus to two runs and three hits in eight innings on Saturday.

"It went pretty good," he said before yesterday's doubleheader. "I got better results than the previous one, but I thought I threw the ball well in that one, too. That was the first time I went six innings since last August."

Asked about his physical condition, Kamieniecki said, "It's fine."

Kamieniecki had made one rehab start each at Double-A Bowie and Single-A Frederick, and also threw at the minor-league complex in Sarasota, Fla., before starting the May 3 game against a Cuban all-star team. The time at Rochester gave Kamieniecki the structure he believed necessary to make a full recovery.

"I had to go out there and get some starts," he said. "During the whole rehab thing I never went on five days. I always came back on three or four. We tried to maybe rush it back and it never felt comfortable. I was never strong on the days I had to pitch."

This certainly was apparent with the Orioles. In his other start on May 8 in Detroit, he was lifted after giving up six runs and walking four in 1 2/3 innings. It was his first appearance since being activated from the disabled list, where he began the season with a strained hamstring.

"I was trying to do two things at once. I was trying to condition and rehab it, and still try to pitch on it at this level. And you can't do that. You can't rehab an injury and be competitive. I was just thinking about it too much."

So how's his mental state now? "We'll find out," he said, grinning.

"He said he's ready to go," Miller said.

He's also in better spirits. "He certainly seems much happier," Miller said.

A dozen pitchers, please

Miller seems resigned to keeping 12 pitchers through the season's first half as a safeguard against more bullpen implosions.

"I'd love to go to 11. I'd love to have 10. But until your starting pitching gets consistent, it's almost impossible," he said.

"You try to protect the bullpen and keep people in roles, but in order to have roles people have to fulfill the first ones. If you have two middle men and neither gets out of the inning, then someone else had to become the middle man and that messes up everything."

Whiff of the future?

Josh Cenete, the Orioles' 34th selection in last week's amateur draft, helped Jefferson (W.Va.) High to a state title with a stifling performance in the semifinals.

Cenete, the first of the Orioles' three sandwich picks, struck out 19 batters in seven innings to defeat St. Albans, 4-1. Like the club's other selections, he still hasn't been signed.

Around the horn

In Game 2, Cal Ripken pinch hit for the first time since Aug. 30, 1981. B. J. Surhoff, who had hits in both games to extend his hitting streak to nine games, is 7-for-19 (.368) lifetime against Florida knuckleballer Dennis Springer, today's starter. Mike Mussina was robbed of a hit by Luis Castillo's diving stop behind second. He went 0-for-2 and is now 1-for-8 for his career.

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