Bones wants to start over in starting role


After rough beginning in rotation, he's hoping he'll get another chance

August 05, 1999|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Though Ricky Bones is listed as the Orioles' starter for Sunday's game against Detroit, manager Ray Miller indicated yesterday that a final decision hasn't been made.

"We'll wait and see where we're at when we get home," he said.

Bones started Tuesday for the first time in almost two years, filling a vacancy in the rotation created with the weekend trade of Juan Guzman to Cincinnati. Miller had hoped Bones could go at least five innings, but he was removed during a four-run third in the Orioles' 12-2 loss to Oakland.

Left-hander Doug Johns gave up four in the fourth and Mike Timlin surrendered four more in the eighth -- the last three on a homer by Miguel Tejada.

Bones allowed seven hits, including a three-run homer by Matt Stairs in the third. He threw 60 pitches.

"I felt pretty good," he said. "I had everything working. I was throwing everything for strikes. It was one bad inning.

"I think he should let me go one or two more starts. It's hard to get something going in one start. I'd like to take a couple more shots and go from there."

Another option would be reversing Johns and Bones. Scott Kamieniecki will stay in the bullpen, and the chances of bringing up left-hander Matt Riley from Double-A Bowie before September have dimmed.

"They're a little concerned with him now because he's thrown a lot of innings," Miller said.

Ponson rests up

Sidney Ponson, who starts tonight's opener of a four-game series against the Tigers, was sent to Baltimore yesterday with specific instructions.

"To get some rest," Miller said.

Miller is seeing signs of fatigue from Ponson, who has thrown 140 innings. His previous high was 135 last season.

The club is off next Thursday and Aug. 16, and Miller wants to use that opportunity to give Ponson seven or eight days between starts.

"Hopefully that'll freshen him up a little bit," Miller said.

Eyes on center field

Each time the Orioles play in a ballpark with a spacious outfield, as they did on this West Coast trip, Miller perceives his club being at a disadvantage. He doesn't believe enough ground is being covered and again suggested Brady Anderson would be better suited in left than center.

"I think Brady would be a good left fielder," Miller said. "I think he's lost some range in the outfield, especially now that's he's hurt. It's very obvious his leg's bothering him. We're going to have to get somebody who can fly and catch the ball in the outfield."

That would mean finding another position for B. J. Surhoff, who started two games at third base after Cal Ripken left the club Monday.

There isn't a center fielder in the organization who's expected to be ready by next season. Eugene Kingsale, who's at Triple-A Rochester, hasn't done enough offensively in the minors to suggest he'll hit at this level. Luis Matos' stock continues to rise, but he began this season at Single-A Frederick before being promoted to Bowie.

Major improvement

Ryan Minor took more with him from Camden Yards last month than his suitcase. He also brought to Rochester some valuable advice from hitting coach Terry Crowley that he hopes will make his second stay with the Orioles more productive.

Minor went 1-for-10 and never appeared comfortable in four games with the Orioles while Ripken nursed a bruised wrist. He was recalled on Tuesday when Ripken went on the disabled list and started at third base yesterday.

"The main thing is you've got to be a little more relaxed," he said. "There were a lot of times when I was swinging at bad pitches. I was swinging the way you're not supposed to. Crow really helped me as far as getting some extension instead of letting the ball travel so deep.

"I want to do better this time. I'm just going to play a little more relaxed, not put any pressure on myself to get a hit every time. Go out and try to hit the ball hard and have some fun this time."

He had a blast yesterday, going 2-for-4 with a double.

Minor was hitting .256 with 24 doubles, 21 homers and 67 RBIs at Rochester. He also had struck out 119 times in 383 at-bats. Because of Ripken's Iron Man reputation, he didn't expect to be called up again this soon.

"That's just the way it goes sometimes," he said. "With Cal, you're usually not going to get a whole lot of playing time. This year's been a little different for him. I guess you always have to be ready. That's what I was trying to do at Rochester because you never know. They could have called up somebody else. Fortunately, I was the one."

Minor flew out of Durham, N.C., on Tuesday morning and didn't arrive at the ballpark until around 6: 15 p.m. Pacific Time. He's battling a head cold that has affected his hearing.

"I'm a little deaf right now," he said.

He'll be seeing his name in the lineup on a regular basis until Ripken returns, providing Miller a better chance to evaluate him.

"I don't think you should judge anything off last time," Miller said.

Miller keeps battling

In a season where the Orioles have sunk 13 games under .500, Miller said gains still can be made, even if they don't translate to a rise in the AL East standings. He also isn't ready to concede anything.

`You want the guys who are having good years to continue to play and do well. You want to see the progress of Ponson and [Jason] Johnson. You want to see Ryan Minor do something," he said.

"It would be nice to bring younger players up and let them play, but we've got guys here who are under contract who are making pretty good money. This isn't the varsity and the JV like in high school. I think everybody thinks it is. `Put this guy on the B team and bring up this other guy.' "

"I'm not throwing in the towel yet," he added. "If we start hitting we could still win some games. Where we can go, I have no idea."

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