O's decide to pitch Erickson -- at Bowie

Velocity down a tad, vet told to wait 1 more start

Molina up, Garcia down



April 29, 2000|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Choosing to proceed with caution despite a troubled rotation, the Orioles will extend Scott Erickson's rehab assignment one more game before activating him from the disabled list.

Erickson is scheduled to pitch at Double-A Bowie tomorrow to further test his right elbow, which needed arthroscopic surgery on March 3 to remove bone chips. Unless there are complications, he'll open the Orioles' three-game series in New York on Friday, ending his bid to rejoin the staff by the end of April.

Erickson's fastball consistently registered at 87-88 mph, with an occasional high of 91, during Tuesday's rehab start at Single-A Frederick, when he allowed two runs and three hits in 6 2/3 innings. Erickson threw 85 pitches, with 18 coming in the last inning, when he issued his only walk. The second run scored after he left the game.

His pitch count will be increased to around 100 and the club will monitor his velocity, which left some room for improvement in Frederick.

"He came through his last rehab fine," said manager Mike Hargrove, whose starters lasted only 10 2/3 innings in the past three games in Chicago. "His velocity probably wasn't what it normally is, but it's close. We've come this far. I'd hate to rush the last step. That's what it comes down to."

Hargrove said the condition of his bullpen, which has been taxed by his starters' recent inability to pitch deep into games, isn't a factor in the decision to keep Erickson off the roster.

"We'd keep an extra pitcher here anyway," Hargrove said.

Asked if he saw any benefit to staying in the minors, Erickson said, "I don't think my opinion really matters. I'll do what they say. It's better than worrying about it. It's not worth the effort. I'll just get ready to pitch in New York if all goes well in Bowie.

"I told them I'd be ready to pitch in Baltimore on Sunday. It's their call. I was hoping for the end of April. I kind of set my sights on the 30th, but apparently the people who watched me in [Frederick] didn't think I was good enough."

Tomorrow's start will be taken by Pat Rapp, who's 3-0 with a 4.70 ERA.

Erickson received some playful jabs from teammates yesterday over his inclusion in People magazine's list of 50 most beautiful people in the world. He wasn't in much of a mood to discuss it. "I'm more worried about baseball," he said.

Molina, Garcia swap places

Hargrove's staff increased to 12 yesterday when the Orioles called up reliever Gabe Molina from Triple-A Rochester and sent down utility infielder Jessie Garcia.

This is Molina's second tour with the Orioles this season, and his fifth since April 30, 1999.

"I'm trying to break the record for most times up," he said.

Molina's trying to keep his ERA down this time. He pitched only one inning, allowing a three-run homer in an April 7 game against the Detroit Tigers, and was optioned to the Red Wings 10 days later. He was 0-0 with a 4.50 ERA and one save in three games before the Orioles summoned him again.

"I finally got some innings under my belt and got a chance to pitch a little bit in Rochester," he said. "I kind of felt like I was still in spring training until I got back to Rochester.

"I feel great. This is where I want to be. There's really nothing left to do except show I belong. I know I can pitch here. I just have to go out there and show Hargrove that I can."

Garcia appeared in six games and was hitless in 11 at-bats. He became expendable when the Orioles signed utility infielder Mark Lewis off waivers from the Cincinnati Reds.

Lewis glad to be aboard

Lewis has had one at-bat as an Oriole, a double in Thursday's loss in Chicago. He admitted to feeling pressure to show he still belonged in the majors after being released earlier in the week by the Reds. He wanted to prove it to the rest of baseball, and to himself.

"I'm trying to get my confidence and believe in myself," said Lewis, a first-round draft choice of the Cleveland Indians in 1988. "I feel like I can still play. It's just a matter of going out and doing it. When you get the opportunity, you want to take advantage of it."

Lewis expressed disappointment in his limited opportunities with the Reds. He was 2-for-19 before being cut loose.

"I expect more of a chance here than I got in Cincinnati. I can't ask for a better situation," he said.

Hargrove is familiar with Lewis from managing him in Cleveland. "He's a very good infielder, and he's got some pop in his bat. He's a good addition for us," he said.

Around the horn

Catcher Charles Johnson took the night off with Texas starting left-handers the next two games. ... Former Oriole Rafael Palmeiro left the game in the fifth inning with tightness in his left hamstring after stealing second base. ... The ejection was the fourth of B. J. Surhoff's career. ... Rangers reliever Jeff Zimmerman has given up seven earned runs in nine innings after allowing only two in his first 29 1/3 last season while making the All-Star team.

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