Trying for a save, O's send struggling Ryan to Rochester

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Club hopes less pressure will help

Molina recalled

June 10, 2000|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Making their first move toward attempting to repair a fractured bullpen, the Orioles have recalled Gabe Molina from the minors and optioned rookie left-hander B. J. Ryan to Triple-A Rochester.

Club officials are hopeful that Ryan can regain his command and his confidence. Both have been noticeably absent since he allowed a game-winning, three-run homer to New York Yankees catcher Jorge Posada on May 5.

At the time, Ryan's ERA stood at 0.66, and projections that he could move into the closer's role sometime before the season ended appeared on the mark. But his ERA inflated to 7.91 after Wednesday's outing against the New York Mets, when he failed to retire a batter and was charged with two runs. He also allowed two inherited runners to score and gave up a two-run homer in the ninth inning of a May 30 game against Tampa Bay. He was removed with two outs and an8-3 lead having been almost completely erased.

"I think it was time for B. J. to go out," said manager Mike Hargrove. "We tried to give him time to fight through and correct what he was doing here that wasn't working, but it became obvious to everybody that it was time for him to go down in a little less pressurized situation to work on things and get him back to where he needs to be."

Pitching coach Sammy Ellis has noted that Ryan is opening up too early on his delivery. Ryan also has lost some velocity on his fastball while trying to throw strikes, which has been a chore. He's walked 21, to go with 21 strikeouts, in 19 1/3 innings.

Ryan will report to Durham, N.C., today, where the Red Wings are playing a four-game series. The Orioles want him to start, going two or three innings at a clip.

"He certainly understood that this was probably the best thing for him right now," Hargrove said.

Veteran left-hander Chuck McElroy, who appeared in only one game from May 14 to June 2 because of his own struggles, will slip into Ryan's role.

"I told him to just go down there and work on what you need to do," McElroy said. "Don't go down there with an attitude. You see some guys do that because they don't want to know. Next thing you know, they're still stuck at square 1. But B. J. has a good attitude and that's what's going to make him successful. I've been in the same situation before. Don't let anything or anybody hold you back. Be determined, and it's going to be there.

"I really didn't sense that he was having trouble with his confidence. He seemed like he was having fun. There were just certain things that didn't work out, and there's really nothing you can do except keep pitching and stay positive. Try to keep all the negative stuff out. I told him I was a perfect example. I was going through that same thing before, and you can't get down on yourself. You have to keep going out and working hard, and the next thing you know, things will turn around."

Molina tries again

This will be Molina's third stop with the Orioles this season, and hissixth in two years. He hadn't used up an option this season until today because more than 20 days had passed since he was sent down. He has one option remaining.

Molina had been used strictly in relief until starting for the Red Wings in his last two appearances. He was pulled after two innings on Thursday with a 1-0 lead and told about his promotion to the Orioles.

"I'm glad I got another chance to come back up," he said. "Unfortunately it's because one of the guys was struggling and had to go back down, but he'll get himself together.

"I know I'm ready. I've had some good innings at Triple-A, throwing my breaking ball for strikes now. I'm pretty comfortable on the mound.

"It's kind of tough getting called up and then sent down. I'd much prefer to stay in one place, preferably up here in the big leagues. Hopefully this will be the last time. Hopefully I can stay here and finish up the season in Baltimore."

Molina's ERA took a hit in his first start with Rochester, when he got through the first two innings unscathed before tiring and giving up five runs in the third.

"They had me starting to get some innings in and throw all my pitches," said Molina, who will be used in relief by Hargrove. "When I come in to close a game, I'm not able to try throwing my breaking ball for strikes. Being a starter was a little more relaxing. I could go in there and get some work in. I could throw different pitches in different situations. I'd throw a 2-1 breaking ball without a second thought. And I think it really helped me."

Molina has made only one appearance with the Orioles this season, giving up a three-run homer in the ninth inning of anApril 7 game against the Detroit Tigers. He was 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA in 16 games at Rochester, with five saves.

Sharing the blame

Hargrove must deal with a bullpen that contains more than one slumping pitcher.

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