J. Johnson's schedule in demotion uncertain

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

He has 72 hours to report to Rochester

Torre call?

July 09, 2000|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

PHILADELPHIA - Manager Mike Hargrove said he wasn't sure whether Jason Johnson would report to Triple-A Rochester before the All-Star break, though the pitcher had indicated he'd try to get there "as soon as he could." He has 72 hours to report.

Johnson was moved to the bullpen after another abbreviated start on Monday. The experiment lasted one game, when he allowed five earned runs in relief of Sidney Ponson on Thursday and suffered the loss to New York.

He was summoned to Hargrove's office after Friday's game in Philadelphia and told about his assignment to Rochester. The news apparently caught Johnson by surprise despite an 0-8 record that matched the worst start by an Orioles pitcher.

"By the time he left [the office] the second time, he was fine with it. He wasn't happy, but I think anybody worth their salt wouldn't be happy with a move like that," Hargrove said.

"We were all really on the fence whether to send him out or send him to the bullpen. We thought we'd try the bullpen. After his outing in New York I called Syd [Thrift, vice president of baseball operations] and it was decided we were really robbing Peter to pay Paul. It wasn't doing him any good or us any good. We need to get him to a setting where it's less pressurized and he can work on things he needs to do to be more consistent.

"Jason can go out there and throw two innings and be good, and the third inning he gives up five runs. It was frustrating for him."

Gabe Molina joined the club yesterday, arriving in time to do some throwing in the outfield during batting practice. This is Molina's fifth stint with the Orioles this season, and his eighth since 1999.

Unlike his past call-ups, he's expected to work mostly in long and middle relief.

He was inserted into yesterday's 13-4 loss to the Phillies and pitched one inning, giving up two hits and one run.

"We sent him out with the idea of stretching him out and lengthening him," Hargrove said of Molina, who now has five appearances with the Orioles. He has given up five earned runs in five innings.

"We don't bring anybody in just to let them sit here and, hopefully, we don't have to use them. The situation has to be right. We used him a little bit more his last time in than we did the time before. But the fact of the matter is, Gabe threw more strikes his last time in than he did his time before. Every time in has been a little bit better."

Options for Torre

With Cal Ripken out of the All-Star Game, American League manager Joe Torre could replace him with catcher Charles Johnson, who went 0-for-3 to drop his average to .308 with a career-high 20 home runs and 47 RBIs. Torre chose his own catcher, Jorge Posada, as the only reserve behind starter Ivan Rodriguez.

Also, shortstop Mike Bordick could sneak in as a replacement for Seattle's Alex Rodriguez, who will not participate because of a concussion he suffered during Friday's game. He was advised not to fly for a time. Bordick went 0-for-3 last night to drop his average to .298, though he has a career-high 14 home runs and 53 RBIs.

Right fielder Albert Belle could be given some consideration, as well. With two hits last night, he lifted his average to .297, with 18 homers and 67 RBIs. He was named the AL's Player of the Month for June after driving in a club-record 37 runs.

Clark gets call

First baseman Will Clark returned to the lineup after missing Friday's game with a deep bruise on his right triceps, and hit a ninth-inning homer.

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