Needing relief, O's shuffle deck

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Ex-Red Sox Corsi signed, goes to Rochester

Molina joins O's, Bones put on DL

July 03, 1999|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK -- Orioles manager Ray Miller held a decidedly one-sided clubhouse meeting before last night's game to address concerns he only touched upon after Thursday's upsetting 8-6 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays.

Perhaps to reinforce the point, the Orioles announced a flurry of moves. They signed veteran reliever Jim Corsi to a minor-league contract hours before placing Ricky Bones on the disabled list due to "arm fatigue" and promoting Gabe Molina from Triple-A Rochester.

The meeting did not resemble the April 27 session in which players were asked to provide input. It was then that one player suggested Miller "let the players play" and the Orioles won seven of their next 10 games.

Instead, Miller took about 10 minutes yesterday to address players on maintaining a more aggressive approach. Miller criticized his bullpen Thursday for pitching "scared" and threatened an overhaul if the situation didn't soon improve.

Mired in a season-high eight-game losing streak, the Orioles began the process yesterday by signing Corsi and assigning him to Triple-A Rochester.

Corsi was granted free agency on June 15 after refusing a minor-league assignment from the Boston Red Sox. Corsi was 1-2 with a 5.25 ERA in 23 appearances with the Red Sox. His ERA would tie him with Doug Johns for the best among Orioles relievers.

"He's had success in the past. I just think we need to be as aggressive as we can," said general manager Frank Wren. "We've pursued everybody who's available. We need to see."

The move with Bones was especially intriguing. A day after throwing six pitches in Toronto -- and less than an hour before last night's game -- the Orioles announced he was being put on the disabled list.

Last Friday, the Orioles attempted to promote Molina by optioning seldom-seen Rocky Coppinger. However, they abruptly rescinded the move on Saturday after discovering that Coppinger must first pass through revocable waivers. Yesterday's move suggested Coppinger did not clear waivers, forcing an alternative move to clear roster space. Wren declined to comment on waivers but cited "a drop in [Bones'] stuff in recent times."

"We noticed it most in his slider. We thought the best way to get him back where he was earlier in the year was rest," Wren said.

In his past four outings, Bones allowed six earned runs in a combined one inning, failing to retire a hitter three times. Bones compiled an 11.37 ERA in June.

The Orioles were swept in Toronto despite overcoming four- and five-run deficits before blowing a 6-0 lead Thursday. Miller maintained his bullpen should be "embarrassed" to walk among hitters who produced 20 runs but only received three losses in return.

"I'm tired of defensive pitching," Miller said. "I'm tired of guys trying to miss bats instead of going after hitters."

Drawing a connection between quicker game times and the Orioles' recent 11-1 run, Miller blistered his staff for its recent stream of walks and hit batters. Two of the Blue Jays' five runs during Thursday's eighth inning, which featured Johns, Bones and Mike Timlin, reached base via walk or being hit.

Wednesday's three-run 10th that erased a 9-7 lead began with a walk. On Tuesday, Tony Batista received a leadoff walk in the 10th and scored the game-winner on a two-out single.

None of this is new. The bullpen entered last night having been scored upon in 50 of 69 appearances while compiling a 5.96 ERA. It had converted 13 of 31 save chances, an abysmal 41.9 percent.

"Good pitching is always going to shut down hitting to a certain point," said Miller. "The mind-set is what makes everything work the mind-set of hitting, the mind-set of pitching, the mind-set of catching ground balls.

"When you are offensive in your thinking, you're an offensive player. Good pitchers are offensive people."

Figga at home with O's

Backup catcher Mike Figga returned to familiar digs last night.

Claimed on waivers June 3 from the Yankees, Figga made only two appearances for New York before being exposed to make room for outfielder Tony Tarasco. In five starts with the Orioles, Figga's catching ERA is 4.02, lowest among the Orioles' four receivers (Charles Johnson, Lenny Webster and Tommy Davis). Already he feels more a part of the Orioles' clubhouse than with the Yankees.

"I definitely feel more comfortable over here," he said. "With the Yankees it was like I was putting in time and really wasn't involved. It's hard to develop any kind of rhythm offensively or defensively like that. But it's especially tough when you get one at-bat every month. Against [David] Cone [in last Saturday's start] I had no chance. I knew what was coming and I didn't have a chance. But at least I've had an opportunity."

Around the horn

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