Mills, Roberts get O's to 27

Reliever goes on DL, infielder to minors

Maduro likely to stay

March 31, 2001|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - The Orioles made two more roster moves before yesterday's 4-3 win over the New York Mets, leaving them with 27 players on their active camp roster as they departed South Florida and approached their final game of the exhibition schedule.

As expected, reliever Alan Mills was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a sore right shoulder, requiring the Orioles to make one more pitching move to get down to 11 before Opening Day. If production is the deciding factor - and it apparently will be - Calvin Maduro has become an easy choice over left-hander John Bale after yesterday running his scoreless-innings streak to 14 1/3 this spring.

Also, infielder Brian Roberts was reassigned to the minor-league camp in Sarasota, Fla., assuring that the Orioles won't have a utility middle infielder unless they make a late trade or waiver claim.

Mills got a late start this spring because of September surgery on his right shoulder. He allowed three runs in three innings, including a home run to Florida's Cliff Floyd on Tuesday that was estimated at 450 feet.

"My velocity isn't consistent right now," he said before leaving the ballpark. "The last time I threw in Melbourne, it took me getting up twice to get loose. And that wasn't even cold weather like what we'll see when we get north, so it might not be a good idea to go up there."

Instead, Mills will remain in Sarasota to continue building arm strength and innings. He's unsure if 15 days will be enough to return him to the Orioles' bullpen and a middle-relief role he inherited after being reacquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers last summer.

"We'll see how it goes," he said. "I just know when I come back I'll be back for good and not someone in the bullpen they have to protect. I want them to be able to use me two, three days in a row. I don't want them to use me once and feel like they have to give me a couple days off. That puts more of a strain on the other guys in the bullpen."

If there's been good news for Mills this spring, it's the absence of any serious pain in the shoulder. He's dealt with some normal soreness after throwing, but nothing to suggest the surgery wasn't a success.

"You go through periods when it takes longer to get loose," he said, "but I haven't had anything bother me all spring, so that's a plus."

Roberts, who spent last season at Single-A Frederick, emerged as one of the camp's biggest surprises, batting .306 with two homers, nine RBIs and six stolen bases in 22 games. A sandwich pick between the first two rounds of the 1999 draft, Roberts had club officials pondering his conversion to a utility player rather than a regular shortstop in the minors. But at 23 and with only 104 professional games on his resume, he was considered too young to be placed in that role. Roberts is expected to start at second base at Double-A Bowie beside prized shortstop prospect Ed Rogers.

Outfielder Eugene Kingsale, whose ninth-inning single produced the winning run yesterday, is expected to be the last position player cut before the team arrives in Baltimore. He would be the center fielder at Triple-A Rochester while Luis Matos recovers from left shoulder surgery. Kingsale probably will be joined by Bale, who's permitted 11 earned runs and 14 hits in the same number of innings as Maduro.

Maduro allowed one hit in his two shutout innings yesterday. Signed two days into camp, he's proved to the club that his right elbow is sound after twice going on the disabled list with a sprained ligament last season.

Hargrove won't announce his final roster moves until today in Atlanta, saying he wants "everybody to keep their options open," but all signs point to Maduro.

"I could tell you [reporters] now, but that's not fair to the other people," Hargrove said. "It's something where I'd rather wait until tomorrow."

Asked if it would be hard to keep Maduro off the team, Hargrove said, "I'd say that's pretty safe."

Maduro, who didn't pitch after June 22 last season, became worried when no team had signed him by January. He even placed a call to his father in Aruba, saying that nobody wanted him. The Orioles finally worked out a minor-league deal, which proved to be one of their smartest moves of the winter.

"Nobody's told me anything, but I hope for the best. I'm just happy to still be here," he said.

"This is all I can do. My job is to go out there and get them out. This is spring, so during the season is going to be key. I have to keep doing that."

Maduro is scheduled to pitch again today in Atlanta, the Orioles' final stop before running into Boston's Pedro Martinez on Opening Day. The last boxes were shipped out of Fort Lauderdale yesterday, ending another six-week stay here that Hargrove considered productive.

"We were able to establish some things in spring training, philosophically, that we need to establish, and I think you guys have seen it on an everyday basis," Hargrove said. "We've seen some people come on who were pleasantly surprising. I think, given where we were when we started this, we've been able to establish some things."

Hargrove singled out infielders Jay Gibbons, Mike Kinkade and Roberts, and pitchers Jason Johnson, Willis Roberts, Jorge Julio and Chuck McElroy as some of the more promising developments of camp. He didn't see any disappointments, though pitching prospects like Jay Spurgeon and John Parrish failed to earn spots in the rotation after receiving the chance this spring.

"If the worst disappointments we have in spring training are [Cal Ripken's] broken rib that healed and he'll get his at-bats, and David Segui's hamstring, which looks like it's healed up and he's ready to go, that's not all bad," Hargrove said.

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