Bypassed Ryan finally gets bullpen call

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Lefty found strike zone with Wings

Richard steps out of McGwire's shadow

July 31, 2000|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Needing a reliever after Saturday's trade of closer Mike Timlin to the St. Louis Cardinals, the Orioles added a third left-hander by recalling B. J. Ryan from Triple-A Rochester.

Ryan almost had been forgotten at Rochester, with the Orioles bypassing him at various times for Gabe Molina, Ryan Kohlmeier and John Parrish. They traded for Alan Mills and Darren Holmes, then released Holmes after three weeks.

Club officials were waiting for Ryan, who began the season as one of the Orioles' late-inning relievers, to regain his command after his ERA swelled to 7.91 in 20 games. He had walked 21 in 19 1/3 innings and opponents were batting .430 against him.

With an opening in their bull-pen and no one else deemed a better alternative, the Orioles figured Ryan was close enough to warrant another chance.

He's had mixed results at Rochester, going 0-1 with a 4.74 ERA in 14 games, including four starts that were arranged early to accumulate his innings at a faster pace. Most encouraging, Ryan walked nine and struck out 28 in 24 2/3 innings. He allowed runs in only two of his past nine appearances.

"I had a lot better command and that's what I went down there to work on," said Ryan, 24, part of last year's Juan Guzman deal. "I was pitching more in the zone and I kept my walks down a lot. I tried to pitch ahead. I was throwing the ball good."

Ryan, who was sent down on June 9 after giving up 16 earned runs in his last 3 2/3 innings, said he didn't grow concerned that another chance in the majors wouldn't present itself until rosters expand in September.

"I couldn't worry about that. I just worried about pitching," he said. "There's nothing you can do about it. You just wait your turn."

Ryan was walking to the Red Wings' bullpen on Saturday when told of his promotion. He arrived in Baltimore around 3 a.m. yesterday.

"He certainly hasn't gone down there and set the world on fire, but that's OK," manager Mike Hargrove said. "He's gotten better command of his fastball and slider. And we needed a reliever. He was the guy we thought would fit better. It gives us a third left-hander, which comes in handy."

First baseman, 1st impression

Another new face in the club-house yesterday belonged to first baseman Chris Richard, who came to the Orioles along with minor-league pitcher Mark Nussbeek in the Timlin deal.

Richard, 26, was 2-for-16 with the Cardinals. His big-league debut carne July 17. That night, he became the 80th player to homer in his first at-bat. He was hitting .277 with 24 doubles, 16 homers and 75 RBIs at Triple-A Memphis, and was 2-for-3 with an RBI in the Triple-A All-Star Game in Rochester.

Stuck behind Mark McGwire in St. Louis, Richard had moved to the outfield before the trade.

"The first thing he asked me was, 'What position am I going to play?' I said, 'The one you didn't play in St. Louis,' "said Orioles vice president Syd Thrift.

"He was a top priority for us."

Richard seemed a little surprised to be an Oriole yesterday, though he also heard the Cardinals were looking to add a pitcher.

"That's the way the game goes, but I'm happy to be here," he said.

Closer by committee

With Timlin gone, the Orioles will revert to their closer-by-committee approach. Mike Trombley should get most of the save chances unless the opposing lineup is stacked with left-handers. In that case, Buddy Groom would get the call.

"I think it's just going to be whatever the situation dictates," said Trombley, who's 2-for-7 in save opportunities and has pitched the ninth inning in two of the past three games. "Maybe someone will establish himself as the guy, but I think we're more valuable -- I know I am -- to be used whenever."

Mercedes answers call

While Parrish made his second major-league start yesterday, Jose Mercedes was assured of maintaining his distraction of being the only member of the rotation with a winning record. It improved to 6-4 on Saturday when he blanked the Indians over seven innings, allowing the Orioles to salvage a split of their doubleheader.

A blister that has reappeared on the middle finger of his right hand didn't cause any problems, but there were other concerns. Unaware that he'd be starting Saturday, Mercedes had thrown in the bullpen the previous day. When Friday's game was rained out, the Orioles pushed for the double-header to be played yesterday instead of Saturday, in part to give Mercedes an extra day to recover.

"When they told me on Friday that I would be pitching yesterday, I told them, 'But I threw in the bullpen.' They said, 'We know, but you're our only choice and we know you can do it.'"

Mercedes scattered six hits before tiring. "In the seventh inning I was still strong," he said, "but then I started to feel it and I didn't want to go back out and take any chances with a 1-0 lead."

Despite winning three straight starts, Mercedes doesn't know when he'll get the ball again. His next turn falls on Thursday, when the Orioles are Off. Sidney Ponson, Mike Mussina and Pat Rapp are scheduled for the three-game series against Minnesota that begins tonight, and Parrish's next turn falls on Friday when the Orioles open a three-game series in Tampa.

"I don't know what will happen," Mercedes said. "I'm here to do my work and whatever comes, comes. I'd love to be in the rotation, but whatever they do with me is fine. I'm not in any position to tell them what to do. If I don't like it, there's nothing I can do."

Around the horn

The start of the game was delayed 1:33 because of rain .... Rookie Luis Matos tied the club record with four steals. Brady Anderson had been the most recent to do it on July 5, 1998 in New York.

Jeff Conine is batting .483 (14-for-29) in his past 10 games.

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