O's try to leave Torre seeing stars


All-Star lobbying steps up

Orosco sets relief mark

demoted Coppinger vents

June 26, 1999|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

Campaigning has begun in earnest for the July 13 All-Star Game at Fenway Park and few precincts are working it harder than the Orioles. With third baseman Cal Ripken enjoying a solid lead over Cleveland's Travis Fryman in the popular vote, Ray Miller intends to use the weekend to discuss the merits of several players with New York Yankees manager Joe Torre, who is taking input from fellow managers on reserve position players and his pitching staff.

"I'll talk to him. I imagine everybody does," Miller said. "I don't want to get in a position of putting pressure on publicly but, sure, it comes up."

However, Miller couldn't help but mention shortstop Mike Bordick, starting pitchers Sidney Ponson and Mike Mussina and left fielder B. J. Surhoff. Mussina is 9-4 with the league's eighth-best ERA, 3.51, after losing a complete-game, 10-strikeout, no-walk effort on Thursday. Surhoff, off to the best start of his career, has never made an All-Star Game.

To help matters along, even before Surhoff went 3-for-5 to lift his average to .341, the Orioles' public relations staff prepared its Top 10 Reasons Why B. J. Surhoff Should Be an All-Star. Among them:

Considers clam chowder one of the main food groups.

With his first name being two initials, it would save time during All-Star introductions.

His career-high 21-game hitting streak matched the longest in the AL this year.

Is a career .339 hitter at Fenway Park with nine home runs.

Thinks Joe Torre is a model American and one heck of a guy.

There may be little need to schmooze Torre. In the '97 All-Star Game, which Torre also managed, Surhoff and Texas outfielder Rusty Greer were the last two position players under consideration not to make the cut. Torre has long been a fan of Surhoff's consistency and strong defense.

Among active players never to appear in an All-Star Game, only Oakland's Tony Phillips has more hits than Surhoff. Phillips, however, has never been associated with a single position. Surhoff, a former catcher and third baseman, is now ranked among the game's best defensive left fielders.

"I'm very aware of B. J.," Torre said. "A couple years ago he was a guy I looked at. I'll have a better read on him by Wednesday."

With the Orioles sitting in fourth place, it will be difficult for them to place more than two players on the All-Star team, especially with ballot-box stuffing in high gear in Cleveland. It is believed that Surhoff or Mussina, but not both, will be named.

Orosco is No. 1

Jesse Orosco crafted history last night when he made the 1,051st relief appearance of his 21-year career, eclipsing the record previously held by longtime Pittsburgh Pirates reliever Kent Tekulve.

Orosco, who tied Tekulve's record Wednesday against the Boston Red Sox, entered with one out in the eighth inning to face Yankees first baseman Tino Martinez with runners at first and third. Martinez singled home the tying run before Orosco got Paul O'Neill to ground into a fielder's choice. Orosco then intentionally walked Chili Davis before being lifted.

"It's a pretty emotional thing. It's something no one has ever done before," said Orosco, who trails Dennis Eckersley by only 16 appearances for the all-time lead in games pitched. "I look at everything that has happened in my career. This is something that can't be taken away. Even though you lose a game, you come in here afterward and your son congratulates you. That's a pretty powerful feeling."

Coppinger optioned

Another rough chapter was written last night in Rocky Coppinger's relationship with the Orioles. The club optoned Coppinger to Triple-A Rochester after the game, recalling pitcher Gabe Molina.

Stunned by the news, Coppinger reacted indignantly, demanding that general manager Frank Wren trade him while ridiculing Miller's infrequent use of him in long relief.

"Obviously I'm not a priority in this organization. I understand that and they understand that, so why don't they move me?" said Coppinger.

Coppinger and Miller have enjoyed an uneven relationship ever since Coppinger harshly criticized his handling by then-manager Davey Johnson and Miller in 1997. Coppinger stormed out of spring training after being optioned in 1998. In seven appearances this season he compiled an 0-1 record and 9.19 ERA, including 16 walks and five home runs in 15 2/3 innings. He suffered most of his damage in two poor starts. He made five relief appearances after being recalled from Rochester May 22.

"Ray Miller thinks I'm a mop-up pitcher. I know I mean little to him. Fine. But at least give me the opportunity to go somewhere else," Coppinger said.

Waiting on Webster

Miller said that he plans to leave Rochester on Monday night with Lenny Webster aboard the team charter if the backup catcher's right ankle supports him through this weekend.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.