First things first with Guzman

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Pitcher alters warm-up, but early woes persist

Clark, Anderson return

July 11, 1999|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

Enigmatic Juan Guzman gave the Orioles another quality start Friday night against the Philadelphia Phillies, but he also extended his curious run of first-inning woe by allowing two runs in what ultimately ended as a 4-2 loss. Guzman (4-7, 4.31) has allowed runs in the first inning of 11 of 18 starts, compiling a 10.00 ERA for the inning.

Manager Ray Miller and pitching coach Bruce Kison already have altered Guzman's routine before games to simulate a first inning.

Guzman warms as any other starter would, sits down, then pitches to an imaginary three hitters before sitting a final time. Guzman then enters the game, hopefully in a second-inning frame of mind. However, Friday night he labored and needed an outfield assist from B. J. Surhoff to escape.

On Friday, Guzman again complained about the difference between the bullpen mound and the real one. Though Miller criticized the Phillies for maintaining a too-high mound, he also recognized Guzman's need to get past what has become a mental hurdle.

"You have to adjust," Miller said. "Juan is a veteran pitcher. If you get a muddy batter's box one day and a dry batter's box the next day, you make adjustments. Nobody can change that. I can't go out and cut the mound down."

When asked about his problem Friday night, Guzman said, "It's not just this place. It's everywhere. It's something I have to get through, I know."

Prone to high pitch counts, Guzman still is able to right himself once out of the first inning. He has strung together four consecutive quality starts for the first time as an Oriole, and is positioned to be traded before the July 31 waiver deadline.

"His stuff is much better from the second inning on," said Miller. "I don't know what it is. I do know Bruce has tried everything to help him."

Lefties return

One night after resting center fielder Brady Anderson and first baseman Will Clark against Phillies right-handed ace Curt Schilling, Miller returned the two left-handed anchors to his lineup vs. Paul Byrd.

Miller defended their absence from Friday's lineup as protecting each from lingering injuries. Clark still isn't fully recovered from an inflamed left knee that caused him to leave the team during its last road trip. Anderson still limps due to a sore hamstring.

Clark met with Miller in Baltimore on Thursday to press his case. Yesterday he took extended hitting with coach Terry Crowley, felt little pain, and successfully lobbied Miller to play him.

"I talked to both guys. I told them they just needed to be super-honest about how they felt," Miller said.

Clark gave his answer with a first-pitch opposite-field home run in the second inning. Clark also reached on a pinch single Friday.

Anderson was healthy enough to bang out three hits last night as well as steal a base in the third.

"I want to be certain about it," Miller said. "But it's awful hard to play with one left-hander against one of the top right-handers in the game."

A-Train update

Arthur Rhodes has found himself Miller's anointed eighth-inning pitcher, his co-closer, and recently sitting in his doghouse.

Frustrated by a collective bullpen meltdown, Miller decided several days ago to return Rhodes to the less spontaneous role of long and middle relief to avert the frequent false starts that caused the left-handed reliever to blister his manager in New York.

Miller says he will attempt to assign Rhodes to start an inning rather than bring him into innings in progress, which is what he did as Rhodes pitched a hitless eighth with two strikeouts last night.

"That's OK with me," said Rhodes, given the low-gloss role of following Rocky Coppinger in the ninth inning of an 11-6 loss Thursday. "If that's what he wants, fine. I don't have a problem with innings. I'm not into getting up and down three times a night. That's happened too often."

Autograph policy

Reacting to "safety and security concerns raised by fans, players and management," the Orioles have taken steps to curb fans lingering by the players' parking lot after games at Camden Yards.

A green mesh tarp was placed around the lot before last week's three-game homestand to discourage post-game autograph-seeking. The dimly lit parking lot had long been considered a dangerous spot for those trying to navigate around children and their parents.

To compensate for limited post-game access, the Orioles pledge that players and coaches will make themselves increasingly available before home games.

"Having grown increasingly concerned for the safety and security of fans, especially young children, who were gathering in active, operating parking lots during the late evening and early morning hours following night games, the club and our players developed the program to improve interaction between players and fans," said Orioles executive vice president John Angelos.

The plan for greater access will likely be implemented before the game, after gates open 90 minutes prior to first pitch.

However, Anderson took the initiative during the last homestand to sign outside the dugout for about 30 minutes following one game.

Pitching in hits

With one last night, Orioles pitching ace Mike Mussina has driven in four runs in three games in which he has batted. A look at how O's pitchers have fared at the plate in National League parks this season:

Mussina

D Op H/AB BI SO Avg

6/8 Fla 0-2 0 0

6/13 Atl 2-5 3 1

7/10 Phl 1-4 1 0 .273

Guzman

6/12 Atl 1-4 1 3

7/9 Phl 0-2 0 1 .167

J. Johnson

6/8 Fla 0-2 0 1 .000

Erickson

6/9 Fla 0-3 0 1 .000

Ponson

6/11 Atl 0-3 0 0 .000

Johns

6/8 Fla 0-1 0 1 .000

Coppinger

6/13 Atl 1-1 0 0 1.000

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