Mills relieved by performance

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Pitcher encouraged after second outing

Opening Day unlikely

March 25, 2001|By Peter Schmuck and Roch Kubatko | Peter Schmuck and Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Right-hander Alan Mills made short work of the Los Angeles Dodgers in his second exhibition appearance yesterday, retiring all three batters he faced in the fifth inning of the Orioles' 9-5 victory at Fort Lauderdale Stadium.

He still is iffy for Opening Day, but clearly was encouraged by his command and arm strength, especially after coming up sore following his first exhibition appearance on Wednesday.

"I didn't feel that good all day, which is kind of strange," said Mills, who had surgery on his right shoulder in September, "but once I started throwing, I felt much better."

Mills figures to get two or three more chances to test his newly repaired shoulder before the team heads north to open the regular season. Club officials appear reluctant to rush him onto the regular-season roster, but it isn't entirely out of the question.

"I've tried all spring not to think about that," Mills said. "Whatever happens, I need to be prepared either way. I don't want to plan on not going, but I want to be ready in case I do. I'm taking it one day at a time."

He admits the soreness he felt when he tried to throw on Thursday caused him some alarm and knocked him down a notch after an uplifting first appearance.

"I went from really happy to really disappointed," he said, "but after not throwing for that amount of time, I shouldn't have expected to feel too good. When you've had surgery, you're always a little alarmed, but when you pitch you're going to be sore."

DeShields nears return

Left fielder Delino DeShields said he expects to return to the lineup tomorrow when the Orioles play the St. Louis Cardinals in Fort Lauderdale.

DeShields had a magnetic resonance imaging taken on his left knee Friday, which didn't show any damage. He's dealing with some pain from a hard slide into home plate during Thursday's split-squad game in Fort Myers, Fla., which prevented him from traveling to Jupiter the next day and prompted a medical exam.

He swung a bat in the clubhouse yesterday while the Orioles worked out on the field, and had an ice pack wrapped around his knee about 90 minutes before the game.

"He'll probably start hitting again [today]," manager Mike Hargrove said. "Bop's got almost 60 at-bats. A couple days aren't going to hurt him. In fact, it should help him."

Gibbons keeps plugging

Has Jay Gibbons done enough this spring to earn a spot on the 25-man roster?

With one week remaining before the Orioles head north, he still has no idea.

"You'd think I would know something, but I really know absolutely nothing," he said. "I feel the same as the first day I came in. I'm just happy things are going OK and, hopefully, they take notice of that. I've been putting the ball in play. Hopefully, I can keep doing it."

Gibbons started at first base on Friday, rapping a double in four trips. He went hitless in two trips yesterday, but he made a diving catch in left field. Fully recovered from a strained right hamstring, he's 16-for-45 (.356) with two homers and nine RBIs.

As a Rule 5 draft pick, the Orioles must keep him on the 25-man roster all season or offer him back to Toronto for $25,000. The chances of him sticking with the club improved when Albert Belle conceded he no longer could play because of a degenerative hip condition. Gibbons could back up David Segui at first base, while getting most of his at-bats as a left-handed designated hitter and pinch-hitter.

"They put me in the lineup, so I'm happy," said Gibbons, who played at Double-A Tennessee last season. "I think I've done a decent job of going out there and performing. It would just be nice to go out there and finish strong and put something in their heads to think about."

Gibbons said he spent the early days of camp trying to formulate a roster that included him, but, "I cut it out because it was too hard to think about. Even now, we've got a lot of guys and I got tired of thinking about it. It's a waste of energy."

He's been trying to conserve some of it while battling the flu. "I can't believe it's been two weeks," he said.

Fight for fifth

Hargrove has scheduled Willis Roberts to pitch on Tuesday, with left-hander Chuck McElroy going two days later, as both pitchers make a final push for the fifth starter's job.

"Don't read anything into that," Hargrove said of using Roberts ahead of McElroy.

"I told [pitching coach] Mark Wiley when we did that, `I'll tell you what, people are going to start asking questions.' But it doesn't mean anything. It just means we split them up so we can choose either."

Around the horn

THE NUMBER: 1 - Swings taken by Cal Ripken, on 10 pitches, in his first spring game.

INJURY UPDATE: Segui, who hasn't played since coming out of a March 12 game against the Florida Marlins, took batting practice and ran the bases but remains day-to-day with a strained right hamstring. "He's not ready," Hargrove said, adding that a target date hasn't been set for Segui's return. Segui made solid contact during BP, once shattering his bat and sending the barrel end to the protective screen at first base. He shoved the handle into the ground before heading inside for another bat.

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