TORONTO -- Scott Erickson makes another pivotal start today. Urged during a Tuesday bullpen session to dramatically slow his delivery, he will attempt to correct the course of a season that has stranded him with a 3-8 record and 6.66 ERA.
Manager Ray Miller admitted yesterday that the thought of placing Erickson in the bullpen has crossed his mind but never reached the threshold of becoming a serious consideration.
"I'm sure Scotty would love to be a closer because he'd have a chance to pitch every day," Miller said. "But he's been a pretty good starter for a number of years. He's a massive innings guy when he's right."
Miller said he is optimistic Tuesday's extended bullpen session with pitching coach Bruce Kison and Home Team Sports broadcaster Mike Flanagan will help right Erickson, who speeded up his delivery this season to better contain base stealers.
Uncomfortable with his mechanics for most of this season, Erickson has lost much of the movement and location off his trademark sinking fastball. Without the pitch, his worth as a closer also would be diminished.
"I've thought about it. But for him to go to the bullpen he needs a sinker," Miller said. "That's the one thing missing. He has to throw it. Yeah, I've thought about it. We've used him there in the past."
Erickson gave Davey Johnson two-thirds of an inning of relief in 1997 and on Aug. 21, 1995, pitched out of the 'pen for Phil Regan, Erickson's first relief appearance since 1990.
Though able to consistently throw 95 mph vs. the New York Yankees last Friday, Erickson had little command. A popular clubhouse theory suggests Erickson's preoccupation with getting the ball to the plate more quickly has polluted his mechanics.
Fetters points to August
Reliever Mike Fetters has begun rehabilitation from June 22 arthroscopic surgery that removed bone chips and spurs from his inflamed right elbow. According to his agent, Dan Horwits, Fetters hopes to return by mid-August.
Los Angeles orthopedic doctor Lewis Yocum performed the surgery on Fetters, who last appeared June 6 against Philadelphia when he left the game with searing pain.
Frustrated at what he had witnessed in last night's game as well as the six before it, Miller seized upon a questionable non-call to unsuccessfully strive for an ejection.
With two outs in the fourth inning, Toronto designated hitter Craig Grebeck sliced a foul ball to right field. Albert Belle pursued it, gloved it, then dropped it just before colliding with a policeman, who had lifted his stool in a feeble attempt to escape just before Belle arrived. Miller argued the play constituted interference.
Five minutes of ranting and gesturing neither reversed the no-call nor earned him his first ejection this season.
DeShields keeps on running
Eleven days after going down, second baseman Delino DeShields continues to make strides in rehabilitating his strained right hamstring. Head trainer Richie Bancells is overseeing a running program for DeShields, who also has begun hitting off a tee.
Miller is optimistic DeShields will be able to return when eligible July 5 without enduring another minor-league rehab assignment.
Rhodes talks in limbo
Apparently preliminary discussions earlier this month between representatives for pending free-agent reliever Arthur Rhodes and Orioles majority owner Peter Angelos represented a false start as the two sides have not expanded on their earlier talks.
"To this day, when we talk about it, the Orioles are still Arthur's No. 1 choice," said Horwits, Rhodes' agent. "About a month ago we said, `We want to get it done; let's go do it.' But not much has happened since."
The Orioles have shown reserve possibly because Rhodes is among those players who may be dealt if management opts for a July purge.
A glass half empty
There were two ways to look at Juan Guzman's work Tuesday. Either focus on his six scoreless innings immediately before his departure or scrutinize a ruinous five-run first inning in which he failed to overcome first baseman Will Clark's two-out error. Tired of seeing several starters labor to throw strikes and execute fundamentals, Miller chose the latter.
"You've got to pick up an error every once in awhile," said Miller, obviously less than impressed by Guzman's seven innings that included just one earned run.
"Errors are part of the game. It's something you have to cover. It's hard to cover walks. It's hard to pitch 2-0. I know Juan is ready when he goes out there, but his basic line was he got behind everybody."
Guzman, a pending free agent, ended June with one win after a two-win May and a winless April. The Orioles now enter the most pivotal month of a transitional season with Guzman their most likely starting pitcher to be traded.
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