Ponson blames pitch location, not velocity

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

`I'm throwing 95 mph'

Segui rests sore hamstring

April 16, 2001|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

The first pitch thrown by Sidney Ponson yesterday was lined into the left-field corner for a double. And that was one of the calmer moments.

One out after Gerald Williams reached second base, Greg Vaughn jumped on a 1-0 curveball for the first of Tampa Bay's four home runs in a 7-4 victory over the Orioles at Camden Yards.

Ponson served up three of them, including a bases-empty shot by Fred McGriff after Vaughn had taken him deep. Eight pitches into his third start this season, Ponson was behind 3-0 and getting booed by an agitated crowd.

It was all about location for Ponson. His curveball to Vaughn and changeup to McGriff stayed over the middle of the plate and were crushed.

Ponson defended his velocity and insisted he had no concerns about his arm. "I'm throwing 95 mph. That's pretty hard," he said.

"He had a few 95s and a 97," manager Mike Hargrove said. "He struck out Ben Grieve on a 97-mph fastball. A lot of those pitches that are 90 to 93 are two-seamers, so that knocks 2 to 4 miles off your fastball right there. I've got to believe that, yes, he's OK. The trainer's reports I get are that he's fine."

McGriff has two career homers at Camden Yards, both off Ponson, who didn't allow another run yesterday until the seventh. Russ Johnson walked with one out, and catcher John Flaherty launched the next pitch, a fastball that stayed up, into the seats in left-center field.

"It's a little frustrating," Hargrove said, "but I like the way Sidney battled from the second inning through the sixth. ... Obviously, the first eight pitches he threw weren't real good, but he battled and settled down and kept us in the game. He just got a pitch up to Flaherty and he hit it out. Those things happen. Sidney's better than that. He'll admit to that."

These were the first home runs off Ponson by someone not named Brian Daubach. The Red Sox first baseman hit three off him in two games.

Having allowed 35 and 30 homers the past two seasons, Ponson already has served up six this year to lead Orioles pitchers. He's also the first starter to accumulate three losses, as the club still waits for one of its starters to post a victory.

Mills update

Syd Thrift, the Orioles' vice president of baseball operations, said the latest reports on reliever Alan Mills show that he continues to throw in the mid-80s while rehabbing from September shoulder surgery at the minor-league complex in Sarasota, Fla.

Mills, who went on the 15-day disabled list before Opening Day, won't be activated until his velocity returns to normal. The Orioles are waiting for his fastball to reach 90 mph. He's also expected to go on an injury rehab assignment before rejoining the club.

"He has to pitch against competition," Thrift said.

Does this mean the Orioles have to stay with 11 pitchers until he returns? The longer Mills is out, the less likely that becomes.

"It depends on the situation," Hargrove said. "We could [go with 12], but I'd rather not do that."

It's possible the Orioles will shuttle some pitchers between the majors and Triple-A Rochester or Double-A Bowie.

They brought up left-hander John Bale on Friday to provide a long reliever. Willis Roberts, who pitched the ninth, would have been called upon early if needed, since Bale went 2 1/3 innings to get his first major-league win Saturday.

Sore Segui takes seat

David Segui was held out of the lineup yesterday after complaining of discomfort in his right leg - the lingering effects of a strained right hamstring that cost him more than two weeks of spring training and remains an issue.

The Orioles have been cautious with Segui to keep the injury from getting worse. Hargrove used him as the designated hitter three times in the past four games before yesterday. "It's been an ongoing thing," Hargrove said. "It gets better, then it gets a little worse. Today, it's a little sore."

Segui offered to play yesterday, but with limitations that made Hargrove unwilling to risk it.

"He said he could protect it, but that's not a good situation. The first thing you know, his competitive nature will take over and he'll end up on the disabled list."

DeShields looks `tentative'

Delino DeShields went 0-for-3 to lower his average to .083. He's struck out 11 times in 36 at-bats, including twice yesterday.

Mike Kinkade pinch hit for him in the seventh inning, with Hargrove looking for a more favorable matchup against left-hander Doug Creek, and hit into a double play.

"I see a guy [DeShields] who right now is a little unsure of what he's doing and tentative at the plate," Hargrove said. "Today's the first time I saw real evidence of that. But he'll get his stroke back. He's been a good hitter in the big leagues for a long time."

Brady Anderson is batting .136 after going 0-for-4 with a walk. He remains the leadoff hitter, and Hargrove became irritated when asked whether he's considering a change atop the order.

"I won't do that," Hargrove said. "Brady is a player, and Brady will play and get his at-bats. To even suggest that is ludicrous."

Around the horn

By outrighting pitcher Calvin Maduro to Triple-A Rochester on Friday, the Orioles have two openings on their 40-man roster that apparently won't be filled for a while. Thrift indicated that no immediate moves will be made to bring the roster up from 38. ... Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of Cal Ripken's 3,000th career hit in Minnesota. The moment was replayed on the video screen after the third inning.

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