Only Maduro answers O's call for extra relief

His first rehab outing is rough but pain-free as Thrift gets busy signals



June 12, 2000|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

While the Orioles continue their search for bullpen help, reliever Calvin Maduro has began an injury rehab assignment at Triple-A Rochester that brought mixed results on Saturday.

Maduro, on the disabled list with a strained ligament in his elbow, was on a two-inning or 30-pitch limit. He needed 36 pitches to get through his only inning, but reports indicated his velocity was good and the stress on his arm brought no pain.

"His command wasn't real sharp, obviously," said manager Mike Hargrove, "but physically it was a good outing for him."

Maduro(0-0, 9.41 ERA in 13 Orioles appearances) is scheduled to pitch tomorrow and Wednesday. How soon he returns to the Orioles depends on how he comes out of those appearances.

"The first hurdle to get over is whether he's physically fine, and I think he is. That's the good news," Hargrove said. "The bad news is he wasn't real effective. That's not surprising."

Meanwhile, vice president of baseball operations Syd Thrift continues to work the phones in an attempt to bolster the pitching staff. But he's not alone in the pursuit of arms, which makes consummating a deal more challenging.

"Syd's constantly talking to people," Hargrove said. "It would be unfair for me to start throwing names out. I don't think there's anything imminent. I'll give you the standard line: We're talking all the time, which is true. But I don't think there's anything imminent.

"Everybody's looking for pitching, and they always are. I was talking to a scout in New York and asked him what they were looking for, and he said pitching."

Hargrove hasn't been given any indication that the Orioles are interested in John Rocker, who saved 38 games last season for the Atlanta Braves. The controversial left-hander was demoted to Triple-A Richmond last week after continued bouts of wildness and a hostile run-in with Sports Illustrated writer Jeff Pearlman before a game at Turner Field. Pearlman wrote the story that contained Rocker's insensitive remarks about minorities, single mothers and gays, making the reliever a target of fans and an unwanted figure in the Braves' clubhouse.

"Put that rumor to rest. I have not heard Rocker's name mentioned around here," Hargrove said.

J. Johnson left out again

With the Orioles being off today before continuing their homestand, the rotation for the three-game series against the Texas Rangers consists of Scott Erickson, Pat Rapp and Sidney Ponson. Jason Johnson has been skipped after allowingsix runs in 5 1/3 innings of Thursday's makeup game against the New York Mets.

Johnson is available to pitch in relief tomorrow and perhaps for an inning on Wednesday. His next start will come on Saturday against the Anaheim Angels.

This isn't a new role for Johnson. It's also one he doesn't relish.

A rainout in Texas onMay 19 cost him an outing, and with the club being off three days later, Johnson went to the bullpen until making his next start on May 27. He was used once in relief between those dates, tossing a scoreless inning on May 23 against the Seattle Mariners and raising speculation that his future might be as a reliever.

Hargrove dismissed the notion, and Johnson asserted he lacked certain qualities necessary to be a reliever.

Johnson said yesterday he might speak with Hargrove about being removed from the rotation for these brief periods.

"Maybe soon. I don't know. We'll have to see if it keeps falling on me like this. Then, definitely," he said.

"It's just frustrating having to go to the bullpen every time."

Hop, skip and a day off

Hargrove kept Cal Ripken on the bench yesterday, which becomes a two-day rest period with the club not playing again until tomorrow. Hargrove had offered to extend it further by allowing Ripken to also sit out Saturday night's game, but the third baseman declined.

Apparently, Ripken wanted the challenge of facing Philadelphia ace Curt Schilling. It was the right call, since Ripken went3-for-4 with his 13th home run and three RBIs.

"Most guys would beg out of the lineup against Curt Schilling, but there was no hesitation at all," Hargrove said. "He's a guy who's as mentally tough as anybody I've been around."

Looking to improve his lateral quickness after September back surgery, Ripken has been taking a hop-step at third as the ball is being released. Ripken said he's always done this, but the move has become more exaggerated in the last week.

"I talked to [third base coach] Sammy Perlozzo and he said Cal's done that in the past," Hargrove said. "I don't know that he's jumped as high in the past, though. A lot of guys use different methods to get jumps on the ball. You watch a lot of tennis players receiving serves and they do the same thing. It's just a variation of what Cal's doing.

"A lot of guys will start deep and take two or three steps in and take a hop. It's not unusual. Maybe the way Cal's doing it is a little unusual, but I have to trust Cal's judgment."

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