Hargrove lays down law with unhappy Johnson

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Bullpen assignment left pitcher looking for relief

June 14, 2000|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Orioles pitcher Jason Johnson met briefly with manager Mike Hargrove after Sunday's game at Camden Yards, seeking an explanation for his latest assignment to the bullpen and expressing his displeasure with the move. In return, Johnson apparently was given a reminder of the pecking order within the clubhouse.

"The thing is, Jason's the pitcher and I'm the manager," Hargrove said before last night's game against the Texas Rangers.

"I understand Jason's disappointment. I really do. But there are certain decisions that have to be made that are my decisions. The players have to understand it's part of the business."

Johnson's predicament is a product of two factors, one of which is beyond his control: The club was off Monday, which disrupted the rotation, and Johnson has become regarded as the No. 5 starter because "four of the guys in the rotation are pitching better than him," Hargrove said.

His next start isn't until Saturday against the Anaheim Angels, making him available in relief last night and perhaps for an inning tonight.

"I don't necessarily like having to put him in the bullpen any more than he likes going there," Hargrove said, "but somebody's got to go. And Jason right now is the No. 5 pitcher, and that's the lot of the No. 5 guy."

Hargrove didn't bother going into a detailed explanation with Johnson, who is 0-4 with a 5.36 ERA in nine games, including eight starts.

"Did I explain that to him? No, I didn't. He came in and talked to me and we talked about it," Hargrove said.

"They understand what's going on, so it's not difficult to get across to them the importance of everything they do. Again, I understand Jason's disappointment at having to go the bullpen. But Jason, to his credit, is going out there to do the job and do what we ask him to do."

Johnson went about two weeks between starts last month because of a rainout and day off. He pitched once in relief, throwing a scoreless inning against the Seattle Mariners on May 23 and raising the issue of whether he'd be more useful in the bullpen.

"Right now that's a `what-if' question and there's no reason to look at it," Hargrove said. "There's nobody better to take his spot in the rotation right now."

Maduro getting close

There's a chance reliever Calvin Maduro could be in the clubhouse by today or tomorrow, depending on what reports the Orioles received off his third appearance with Triple-A Rochester last night.

Maduro displayed better command on Monday while tossing a scoreless inning than he had shown on Saturday, when his velocity was good but he had trouble locating his pitches.

On the disabled list since May 13 with a strained ligament in his elbow, Maduro continues to get through his sessions without pain while drawing closer to a return.

"We'll evaluate where he is after [last night]," Hargrove said.

Left-hander B.J. Ryan also impressed club officials on Monday while starting for Rochester. Sent down after his ERA had risen to 7.91, Ryan allowed two hits and struck out two in two scoreless innings. His fastball came in regularly at 89-91 mph, with a high of 93. He'll continue to be used as a starter to build innings, as well as the confidence he lost while struggling at the major-league level.

Family affair

Hargrove's son, Andy, got acclimated with Camden Yards yesterday by taking batting practice from coach Brian Graham for about 30 minutes, switching from an aluminum to wooden bat while jacking a few balls into the seats. He also fielded some grounders at first base from his father before retreating to the manager's office.

"He's got big-time power," Graham said of the younger Hargrove, a left-handed pitcher/first baseman drafted by the Orioles in the 31st round last week out of St. Ignatius High School in Ohio.

"I haven't seen a high school kid hit the ball like that, where it comes off the bat so quick. He was hitting the ball 10 rows deep with a wooden bat."

Graham said he hoped Andy, a draft-and-follow pick who is expected to attend Yavapai Junior College in Prescott, Ariz., for one year, wouldn't view his selection by the Orioles as some type of favor to the manager.

"No way was that a courtesy pick," Graham said. "A courtesy pick is the 49th or 50th round."

Hargrove implored his son to work his feet at first base after misplaying a few balls. He also made sure Andy fielded the last five cleanly before coming off the field.

Praise for Garcia

Hargrove endorsed the Orioles' acquisition of minor-league outfielder Karim Garcia, a former top prospect in the Los Angeles Dodgers' system who was obtained from the Detroit Tigers on Monday for future considerations.

"He's a 24-year-old, power-hitting left-handed outfielder," Hargrove said. "I saw him play in Detroit last year and he swung the bat well against us. He adds depth to what we've got here. He's a good, young player."

Garcia, who was batting .297 with 15 homers and 38 RBIs for Triple-A Toledo, will report to Rochester. Thrift said there was no rush to put him on the 40-man roster.

Around the horn

Delino DeShields' average improved last night before he stepped to the plate. Due to a scoring change from a May 6 game in New York, DeShields has been credited with a hit on a play that originally had been ruled an error by Yankees second baseman Clay Bellinger. His average stood at .307 going into last night, rather than .303.

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