BOSTON -- Having tried to deflect questions about salaries and what pressures they may create on him, Ray Miller has conceded that the Orioles' crush of long-term contracts limits a manager.
The issue was raised recently when a reporter suggested how Earl Weaver might handle a delicate personnel matter. Miller replied that such comparisons are irrelevant when his struggling closer has a four-year, $16 million deal and his controversial right fielder carries a five-year, $65 million contract with no-trade leverage.
"I told him, `Don't tell me what Earl Weaver would have done,' " Miller told the Boston Globe. "Weaver never had a four-year middle reliever making $4 million or a six-year right fielder making $13 million. Earl went away for a year and the salaries doubled. He came back and said to me one day at home plate, `What happened to the game?' I could ask the same question, but I won't."
Miller said he has to "pick his spots" when administering discipline. At various times this season, he has administered a structure of fines to deal with pitchers' poor fielding habits, revoked players' golf privileges on the road and benched right fielder Albert Belle after a series of incidents culminating in a televised dugout confrontation in Florida.
Sox pitching woes continue
The Red Sox continue to watch their pitching staff wilt under a rash of injuries. Last night's scheduled starter, Mark Portugal, was replaced by rookie Jin Ho Cho because of back spasms that have bothered him for several days.
Portugal reported no problems during his start Saturday but complained that his back locked up Sunday night. Portugal's absence coincides with ace Pedro Martinez's being scratched from tonight's start because of a sore right shoulder.
Martinez played catch yesterday for the first time since a traumatic start last Sunday and is expected to miss at least another week. Just in case, the Red Sox traded for Tampa Bay starter Julio Santana on Wednesday.
Team doctor Arthur Pappas said that Martinez reported a little tightness in the back of his right shoulder, but that it was more important to see how quickly Martinez recovers.
Belle downplays trade talk
Right fielder Albert Belle released a brief statement to selected media outlets on Wednesday after The Sun reported that he had renounced the blanket no-trade provision within his five-year, $65 million contract.
"I have not sought nor am I seeking to be traded. I made an election to play in Baltimore and that's where I plan to continue playing," Belle said in the statement, distributed by his brother, Terry, to the Washington Times and the Daily Record of York, Pa.
The statements was not given to publications that had reported Belle's decision.
Another Minor adjustment
Miller said he was somewhat surprised at third base prospect Ryan Minor's sluggish bat and tentative glove during his recent summons from Triple-A Rochester. But the manager refused to allow one weekend to color his overall impression.
"It looked to me like he was trying not to miss balls," Miller said of Minor, who was 1-for-10 with four strikeouts and a bloop single. "I think he put undue pressure on himself. He gets down on himself, but he's still learning. I don't think it's fair to judge him on four days. I'm sure we'll see him back here."
HTS works out glitch
Thanks to a damaged transmission line, area viewers saw about 45 minutes of last night's game through the Red Sox's cable television carrier.
Ted Ewanciw, a Home Team Sports spokesman, said a fiber transmission line out of an Oklahoma City routing station went out about 30 minutes before game time. HTS officials attempted to locate a satellite dish to bounce their signal off but found there was no available space out of Boston because of coverage of the John F. Kennedy Jr. burial.
New England Sports Network, a Boston-based regional sports channel, agreed to allow HTS to use its signal until the Bethesda-based channel could restore its line, which it did around 7: 42 p.m.
Around the horn
Miller said Jesse Orosco's diminished visibility has more to do with a defined role than his uneven performance or underlying health concerns. Orosco has appeared only four times this month. Miller has told Orosco he hopes to limit his workload to left-handed hitters in the seventh or eighth inning. Catcher Mike Figga received a promised start, his eighth since joining the Orioles, to allow Charles Johnson a long-anticipated day off. Figga threw out Jose Offerman stealing for the Red Sox's first out. Designated hitter Harold Baines returned to the lineup after two days off but extended his hitless skid to 0-for-11.
Sun staff writer Milton Kent contributed to this article.
Pub Date: 7/23/99