Pessimism grows on Anderson for Opening Day

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Ankle still bothersome, though DL not foreseen

March 26, 2000|By Joe Strauss and Roch Kubatko | Joe Strauss and Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Center fielder Brady Anderson went 1-for-8 yesterday in a controlled game at the Orioles' minor-league facility in Sarasota, Fla., but the club is increasingly resigned to the possibility that his weakened left ankle may not allow him to open the season April 3.

Manager Mike Hargrove acknowledged the possibility after the Orioles' 2-1 exhibition loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers here yesterday.

"We're shooting for Opening Day. I don't know if that's going to happen," Hargrove said. "He's getting better every day. I'd say he's on the downhill side of it. But I don't know where that leaves him exactly."

Hargrove said he does not anticipate Anderson having to begin the season on the disabled list. However, his absence from action since March 10 represents a significant hurdle in his preparation.

Should he not be ready, the Orioles will replace him with either Rich Amaral or Delino DeShields.

A roster move with Anderson would appear necessary to bring nonroster outfielder Wayne Kirby or prospect Eugene Kingsale into the equation.

Mercedes, Worrell impress

While his most obvious competition for the starting rotation pitched against the St. Louis Cardinals in Jupiter, Fla., in front of vice president of baseball operations Syd Thrift, Jose Mercedes did everything he could to impress Hargrove. Mercedes allowed only one unearned run and three hits in four innings. The performance actually bumped his spring ERA to 2.25, easily lowest among the rotation.

Tim Worrell, like Mercedes a nonroster player, helped his case with a nearly identical line. Worrell gave up three hits and one run in three innings and struck out three. Consecutive two-out hits by Jose Vizcaino and Dave Hansen left him with the loss, but Worrell remains the camp's most effective reliever, having allowed 15 base runners in 13 innings while compiling a 1.38 ERA.

"I feel like I've had a good spring," said Worrell. "I'm happy with what I've done. I feel like I've done everything that's under my control to give myself a chance. It's their decision."

The next 48 hours will be excruciating for Worrell. He signed a split contract with the club two weeks before spring training stipulating that he must be named to the 25-man roster by March 27. Yesterday's appearance was his last before the deadline.

"I haven't heard anything, and it's not my place to ask," he said. "I don't know how they see things, but I feel like I've given myself every chance."

Hargrove spoke glowingly of both pitchers, saying they had "confirmed" their standing. Worrell's main competition for a roster spot is believed to be Al Reyes, who has an option remaining. Hargrove said last week that contract status may play a significant role in the composition of the April 3 roster.

Hargrove referred to Mercedes as having had "one bad outing" in which he allowed three runs in an inning. However, the manager speculated Wednesday that Mercedes could grab the fourth place in the rotation until Scott Erickson returns from arthroscopic elbow surgery.

"I don't think anybody can ask for better than I've done so far," said Mercedes. "I don't know what their thinking is. I've just go to wait and see what happens."

Rapp looks like a starter

Though Hargrove hasn't made it official yet, Pat Rapp seems to have earned a spot in the rotation by allowing five earned runs and eight hits in 14 innings while also holding opponents to a .157 average. That leaves Calvin Maduro and Mercedes vying for the fifth slot, which made yesterday's date important to both pitchers.

While Mercedes made his first spring start in Fort Lauderdale, Maduro took the mound at Roger Dean Stadium. Maduro had given up only three runs in four starts, but he matched that total in the second inning. The Cardinals sent eight batters to the plate and collected five hits, including an RBI single by pitcher Rick Ankiel.

Those were the only runs he allowed in five innings. Maduro gave up a double and hit a batter in the third, but was aided by catcher Charles Johnson, who threw out Fernando Tatis trying to steal third. Maduro gave up a leadoff double in the fourth, but stranded a runner on third. This time, Jerry Hairston bailed him out by leaping to snatch a high chopper with one out.

Maduro, who is out of minor-league options, allowed seven hits, walked two and struck out four. He had walked only one before yesterday. He's given up six runs and 16 hits in 15 spring innings.

"He made one mistake, when he let the pitcher get a hit," said bench coach Jeff Newman, who served as manager. "I think he wouldn't throw that pitch again. It was a changeup, and looking back I think he'd want to challenge him."

Said Maduro: "I'm very happy about the way I pitched today. I was more consistently down in the strike zone with all my pitches. I didn't hang any curves or changeup. Today was a good step. I was really calm. I'm thinking pitch to pitch. Every time I go out there, I'm making progress."

Around the horn

Jeff Conine, recovering from tendinitis in his right rotator cuff, started in left field against the Cardinals, only his second game in the field since March 8. He played first base on Friday. Ryan Minor went 3-for-4 with a run-scoring double in Jupiter, raising his average to .394. Johnson threw out two runners trying to steal. Four batters were hit by pitches in Jupiter -- two on each club.

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