11 pitchers likely for opening roster

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

If tentative decision holds, team may start year with four catchers

Baseball

Orioles notebook

March 27, 2001|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Though the decision isn't final, Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said it's "likely" he'll keep 11 pitchers and an extra position player when the club heads north, a move that's tied to reliever Alan Mills' expected placement on the disabled list.

"I don't see us going very deep into the season with only 11, but as of right now, we're talking about 11," Hargrove said.

That leaves open the possibility the Orioles will retain all four catchers - Brook Fordyce, Fernando Lunar, Greg Myers and Mike Kinkade - until needing a 12th pitcher.

It also reduces the chances of Chad Paronto being part of the bullpen despite a 2.00 ERA and 10 strikeouts in nine innings. He could be edged out by Calvin Maduro, a late addition to camp who hasn't allowed a run in 11 1/3 innings.

"If we take all four of them, that's not bad," Hargrove said. "If you take Kinkade, he's more of a utility player because he can play third, first, left field, right field and catch. We'll see where it goes.

"They're all doing well. Lunar's not swinging the bat real well, but he's a good catch-and-throw guy and he's out of options."

Lunar, in keeping with his reputation as a defensive specialist, has two hits in 20 at-bats. Myers is batting .341 with two homers. A slump has taken down Kinkade's average to .273, but he leads the club with five homers to go with 13 RBIs. He's also out of options.

"Greg's lost, I would guess, anywhere from 10 to 20 pounds," Hargrove said. "He's in good shape. You can tell by his performance. He's lighter on his feet, he's quicker. He's had a very good camp."

All for naught again?

Eugene Kingsale had days like this before, though not enough to move his career beyond Triple-A on a full-time basis. He collected four hits in Sunday's victory over Montreal in Jupiter, Fla., and went into yesterday's game against St. Louis batting .391 before going 0-for-1 with a walk and stolen base, lowering his average to .383.

He could break camp as the Orioles' leading hitter, which won't keep him out of Rochester.

Kingsale singled in all four plate appearances on Sunday to boost his average from .333 to the threshold of .400. "I've done that before," he said. "I just try to remember those days, especially when I have a bad day. I try to flash back to what I did and how good it felt."

There weren't many good feelings last season. Kingsale tore his right quadriceps muscle toward the end of spring training and didn't play again until beginning injury rehab on Aug. 18. He was recalled by the Orioles two weeks later and started 22 of the last 26 games in center field, batting .239 with nine RBIs.

He played winter ball in the Dominican Republic to account for some missing at-bats, and seemed better prepared for his February arrival in Fort Lauderdale.

"I think that helped me a lot," said Kingsale, who has 18 hits, but only 19 total bases. "After the major-league season, I went over there so I didn't waste the whole year. It was a good experience, a good league. I was happy they sent me there. As a matter of fact, I might go back there again this year."

He's used to return trips, though usually to Rochester. Kingsale, 24, has another option remaining and seemingly no chance of making the club unless there's an injury.

Melvin Mora has moved from shortstop to center field, and the outfield corners will be occupied at various times by Chris Richard, Brady Anderson and Delino DeShields. Reserves Jeff Conine and Kinkade also could factor into the equation, though Conine remains a candidate to be traded.

Further complicating Kingsale's professional life was last year's emergence of Luis Matos, who's seen as the center fielder of the future but will miss at least a portion of this season after having shoulder surgery.

"It's tough, but I'm not really thinking about that," Kingsale said. "I just go out there, have fun and try to do the best I can, and hopefully I'll make it. If not, I'll keep my head up and keep working and see what happens.

"I've done what I've been told to do, and hopefully things will turn out for me. So far it's been good."

First hit for Ripken

Making his third consecutive start yesterday, Cal Ripken collected his first hit and RBI of the spring when he doubled down the right-field line to score Anderson.

Ripken lined a 1-1 pitch past Cardinals first baseman Mark McGwire in the first inning. He came home on a single by Conine.

Ripken had been 0-for-5 with two walks before yesterday, when he again started at third base and played six innings. He also bounced to third twice, with his bat shattering in the fourth.

The first ball hit to him in the field had bad intentions. McGwire's first-inning smash deflected off Ripken's glove and rolled into shallow left field. Ripken chased it down, sliding at the end, and held McGwire to a single.

He fielded three other chances cleanly before leaving the game.

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