Yanks likely to miss Mussina

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Hargrove doesn't plan to hold ace back from Thursday start

May 01, 2000|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

If manager Mike Hargrove elects to leave his rotation undisturbed, he'll start Mike Mussina in Thursday afternoon's game against the Anaheim Angels at Camden Yards rather than hold him back for the series in New York that begins the next night. But that's subject to change.

As it now stands, Scott Erickson would pitch Friday against the Yankees after being activated from the disabled list. Erickson made his second rehab start yesterday, tossing seven shutout innings at Double-A Bowie. He hasn't appeared in a game with the Orioles since having arthroscopic surgery on March 3 to remove bone chips from his right elbow.

Pat Rapp, working on five days' rest, would pitch Saturday, and Sidney Ponson would close out the series.

Hargrove said he's almost certain the rotation will unfold in this manner, but Mussina remains the wild card. Adamant in the past about working on four days' rest, he would be receptive to waiting until Friday after throwing 138 pitches in Saturday's complete-game, 3-1 victory over Texas.

"Him going 138 pitches certainly makes you think about it," Hargrove said. "I'm not going to say 100 percent no, but I'm close to that at this time."

Mussina said he doesn't believe he'd need the extra day to get ready. "I don't think either way would be that big a deal. I didn't feel too bad today."

No matter how the pitchers are aligned, it's assured that Jose Mercedes eventually will go to the bullpen after making four starts. A nonroster invitee at spring training, Mercedes was pulled with two outs in the second inning in his last appearance after giving up four runs to the Chicago White Sox. He's 2-1 with a 6.38 ERA.

Lewis clicks in first start

Hargrove broke out a unique lineup yesterday, emptying his bench of all right-handed hitters while resting Brady Anderson, Delino DeShields and Harold Baines. Hargrove also gave Mark Lewis his first start as an Oriole, using him at second base and batting him ninth against Rangers left-hander Kenny Rogers.

Lewis continues to make a favorable impression. He ripped a two-run double into right-center field in the second inning, his first RBIs since being claimed off waivers from the Cincinnati Reds. He also doubled in his first at-bat with the club in Thursday's game against the White Sox, and scored the winning run the following night on a balk.

For the third time in four games, Albert Belle served as the designated hitter while Jeff Conine started in right field. On each occasion, the opposing pitcher has been a left-hander: Chicago's Jim Parque and the Rangers' Rogers and Darren Oliver.

"There's no significance to that," Hargrove said of using Belle as the DH. "It just allows me to be more flexible with the lineup. I talked to Albert, and Albert was fine with it. I don't anticipate this becoming a trend at all."

Conine went 2-for-4 with a run-scoring double.

No room for Worrell

As it turns out, the Orioles had a good reason for designating reliever Tim Worrell for assignment rather than optioning infielder Jesse Garcia in the middle of a four-game series that exhausted their bullpen last week in Chicago.

The Orioles' 40-man roster was full at the time, and they needed to clear a spot for Lewis. Rather than risk losing a prospect, they opted to bump Worrell from their 40-man list.

Garcia was optioned Friday when the Orioles recalled reliever Gabe Molina from Triple-A Rochester. Molina was already on their 40-man roster.

McElroy makes progress

The numbers still leave a lot of room for improvement. They still hang heavy over the reliever's head. But left-hander Chuck McElroy, part of the Orioles' massive bullpen renovation this winter, said he's making progress.

McElroy has allowed 11 earned runs and 10 hits, with eight walks, in seven innings. But his last two outings have whittled his ERA from 24.00 to 14.14, though he's given up three runs in four innings.

"I haven't felt comfortable yet," he said, "but the last two times out I've been a little more relaxed. And I wouldn't say there's been any pressure. You know yourself as well as anybody, and when something's not right out there, all you can do is just keep battling. That's all I've been doing -- battling.

"This is something people go through. All you can do is pitch your way out of it and stay strong mentally."

Asked why it's taken so long to begin feeling relaxed, he said, "I don't know. If I did, I would have been able to control it. I just go out each time and try to have fun. Certain things you can control, and certain things you can't. I just have to stay positive and go out there and enjoy it. I come to the ballpark every day ready to go."

McElroy said he doesn't worry about job security. The Orioles will reduce a pitcher when Erickson is activated later this week, but McElroy doesn't wonder whether he's on the bubble.

"That's out of my control," he said. "I don't have time to worry about that stuff."

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