Linton's farm work sows shot

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

6-1 run at Rochester earns vet second chance to start

August 18, 1999|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Looking for a fifth starter who can provide some innings, the Orioles will recall Doug Linton from Triple-A Rochester and give him Saturday's assignment against the Chicago White Sox.

Linton made two starts among his eight appearances with the Orioles before being sent down on May 15 to clear room for reliever Doug Johns. He left with a 4-2 lead after five innings in his first start against Toronto at Camden Yards April 11, but the bullpen gave it away. He then allowed five runs and eight hits in 6 1/3 innings in Toronto on April 17. Overall, he was 0-1 with a 6.17 ERA.

Admitting he lost his aggressiveness with the Orioles after losing his command, Linton has rediscovered both at Rochester. Since July 2, he's 6-1 with a 2.14 ERA, walking seven and striking out 59 in 63 innings. He hasn't issued more than one walk in a game during that stretch.

General manager Frank Wren flew to Rochester, N.Y., over the weekend to watch Linton, 34, who improved his record to 7-5 by giving up one run in seven innings Saturday against Syracuse.

"I got into a good groove here and it's held together for nine starts," said Linton, whose 3.65 ERA ranks fifth in the International League. "I don't think I've ever been in a groove this consistent."

Linton said he began to wonder if he'd get another opportunity in Baltimore. Feeling he had pitched well enough to warrant another start, he sat in the bullpen while Scott Kamieniecki and Rocky Coppinger struggled in the rotation.

"It's always in the back of your mind," he said. "Nothing bad against anybody, but I thought I did a decent job in the rotation when I was in there. I know they had a lot invested in Rocky and Kammy and wanted to see what they could give them. For some reason I have trouble adjusting to the bullpen."

Linton was aware that the Orioles were seeking a fifth starter to replace Ricky Bones, who totaled 6 1/3 innings in two outings before returning to the bullpen. A hole in the rotation still existed since Juan Guzman was traded to Cincinnati on July 31.

"I knew about all the rumors that they were looking for another starter, but I had to take each batter at a time or the game gets away from you," said Linton, who was signed by the Orioles in December, two years after having "Tommy John" surgery. He hadn't pitched in the majors since 1996 with Kansas City.

"This is an opportunity. If I can go out and give them six or seven innings and keep the team in it, I've done my job."

The No. 5 starter originally was slated to pitch Friday, but Sidney Ponson will be moved up instead.

M More moves on horizon

With Linton rejoining the club, a corresponding roster move will be made Saturday. That might not be all the activity.

Manager Ray Miller continues to push for an extra position player, which would necessitate reducing the pitching staff to 11. Jason Johnson could be sent to Rochester, then brought back when rosters expand on Sept. 1. Johns also has options remaining.

Miller would prefer adding another left-handed hitter. He's inquired about Rochester's Howie Clark, who has gotten most of his starts in the outfield but also has played third, second and first. He also serves as the Red Wings' emergency catcher, and even pitched twice this year during blowouts to save the bullpen.

"Probably we'll have to do something," Miller said.

Clark gets shot for elbow

Will Clark was held out of the lineup for the third straight game because of soreness and mild swelling in his left elbow, but did some light hitting and said he expected to play tonight.

Clark received a cortisone shot in Baltimore on Monday, which usually is followed by three days of rest. "As much trouble as I've had with that elbow, I've had shots in it before and for me it's usually a day or two," he said.

Miller has referred to the problem as a slight hyperextension, which he said occurred during batting practice in Tampa Bay last week. But Clark said the swelling, which got worse after the flight to Cleveland, is more likely related to two previous surgeries, the most recent in November 1996.

"It swelled up on me in Cleveland pretty good. For what reason, I have no idea because I didn't get hit or anything," he said.

"It swelled up like a baseball. When you've had two surgeries and 24 bone chips taken out, there's still going to be some aggravation every now and then. Ever since I broke it in '86, it's never been 100 percent."

Fetters improving

Reliever Mike Fetters threw in the bullpen for about 15 minutes, just as he had done in Cleveland before Sunday night's game. Again, he used all of his pitches and noted some improvement in his command, but stopped short of pronouncing himself ready to go on an injury rehab assignment.

"It's getting better as far as command, but it's still not where I want it to be where I can go out in a game yet," said Fetters, who is recovering from surgery June 22 to remove bone chips and spurs from his right elbow.

Keys to swim with Sharks

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