O's bullpen shines in a rare day in sun

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

4 combine for scoreless 7

Conine steals 2 HRs in left

July 26, 1999|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Orioles starter Sidney Ponson didn't distinguish himself in yesterday's game against Anaheim, but the bullpen more than picked up the slack. It practically carried the club on its shoulders.

Relievers Doug Johns, Al Reyes, Jesse Orosco and Scott Kamieniecki combined for seven shutout innings, allowing the Orioles to rally for an 8-7, 11-inning victory at Camden Yards.

For Johns, the game represented an escape from oblivion. For Reyes, it marked his Orioles debut. For Orosco, it moved him closer to Dennis Eckersley's record for most appearances and continued a dominant stretch. And for Kamieniecki, it provided his first win since April 18, 1998, while also reinforcing his value outside the rotation.

Johns had pitched just once in the past 19 days, throwing 2 1/3 scoreless innings against the New York Mets on July 18. Yesterday, he blanked the Angels on one hit over three innings, walking two and striking out two. The only blotch on his record was a single to the first batter he faced, Mo Vaughn, that allowed two inherited runners to score in the fifth inning. A sacrifice fly by Tim Salmon brought in another run charged to Ponson, who had loaded the bases with no outs.

Vaughn's hit was the only one given up by the bullpen, which retired the last 13 batters and also amassed 10 strikeouts.

Frustrated by his inactivity, Johns met with manager Ray Miller before the game. "I asked if he was aware of it and he said he was and he was just saving me for the right situation. The right situation was today and I'm just glad I could contribute to a victory," Johns said.

Reyes, acquired from Milwaukee as the player-to-be-named in the Rocky Coppinger trade, struck out the side in the eighth, and Orosco did the same in the ninth. Orosco retired Vaughn to begin the 10th, and Kamieniecki got the last two outs before breezing through the 11th.

Orosco has pitched in 1,064 games, seven behind Eckersley. He already holds the record for most relief appearances with 1,060. But he's doing more than just adding to those numbers. He's retired 11 of 12 batters this month.

Kamieniecki can top that, having set down 14 of his last 15.

As for finally ending his drought, which was created by an assortment of injuries, Kamieniecki said, "I knew it had been a while but I didn't know the exact date. It's just a good feeling to win the game. A lot of things had to go right and a lot of guys came through."

Back to the... closet

The Orioles have seen the future and it lacks fashion sense.

With the game-time temperature at 97 degrees, the Orioles broke out their black-and-silver jerseys and caps as part of their "Turn Ahead the Clock Day." The "orbgirls," Heather Bressler and Meredith Howell, and umpire attendant Ernie Tyler sported the same attire, with Tyler's jersey including the No. 3,167 to match the consecutive games he's worked. Player introductions were made in a robotic tone, and the scoreboard graphics had a futuristic look.

The Angels also went along with the theme, wearing red and blue uniforms with a jersey logo big enough to cover the infield -- or Vaughn.

Miller didn't object to his new threads, saying, "I've kind of taken a liking to black simply because us more maturely built people don't look so bad."

Conine switch proves a steal

Miller used yesterday's game to provide rest for B. J. Surhoff and Mike Bordick. Surhoff, who had started all but one of the first 97 games in left field, was used as the designated hitter. Bordick, who had made 95 starts at shortstop, took a seat on the bench while Jeff Reboulet filled his spot.

"Bordy gets almost 72 hours by not starting, with the off day Monday before we play again. And B. J.'s been in there every day," Miller said. "It's going to be 150 [degrees] on the field. It was the right thing to do. I'm trying to keep these guys healthy. I've got an older club. And this is the kind of day when Rebs usually steps up."

Reboulet went 0-for-2 with a walk and a sacrifice bunt. Bordick replaced him in the 11th inning.

Other lineup adjustments included Rich Amaral starting in center field in place of Brady Anderson, whose .326 career average against Anaheim left-hander Chuck Finley didn't sway Miller. And by using Surhoff as the DH and playing Jeff Conine in left field, Miller was able to rest Harold Baines until using him as a pinch hitter in the 10th inning.

"Brady's been dragging a little bit. He's just kind of beat up. And Harold's [right] shoulder has been dragging a little bit," Miller said.

"Brady's a lot like Cal [Ripken]. He gets 48 hours and it freshens him up pretty good."

Miller noted how catcher Charles Johnson responded with three hits Saturday after sitting out the two previous games. "It certainly looked good for Charles. He bounced back."

Putting Conine in left made Miller look awfully good. Conine made a leaping catch at the fence in the first inning to rob Salmon of a grand slam, and took a homer away from Charlie O'Brien leading off the second.

Conine was making only his second start in left. He's started one game in right and 49 at first base.

Around the horn

Garret Anderson extended his hitting streak to 16 games with a first-inning single. Salmon's sacrifice fly in the first inning produced his 619th RBI, moving him past Chili Davis into second place on the Angels' all-time list.

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