Towers, O's put on hold by rain

Rainout makes rookie wait extra day for first big-league start

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

The Orioles made it through seven weeks of the season without having a game postponed because of rain. Their luck was bound to change.

Lately, it's been all wet, making Josh Towers wait another day to make his first major-league start.

Yesterday's game against the Texas Rangers was washed out because of inclement weather and an ominous forecast that offered no relief. Whatever window existed for avoiding more scheduling alterations slam- med shut about 45 minutes before the 1:35 p.m. start. That makes two postponements in the past five days.

No makeup date has been announced for the latest postponement. The series concludes tomorrow, and the Rangers don't return to Baltimore until beginning a two-game series on July 18, the first homestand following the All-Star break. The Rangers were pushing for a day-night doubleheader today, but could wind up playing two games on July 19 before heading to Tampa.

Manager Mike Hargrove will push back his starters one day, which puts Sidney Ponson on the mound today and delays Towers' start until tomorrow. Towers, 24, was recalled from Triple-A Rochester on Friday when Pat Hentgen went on the disabled list with elbow tendinitis.

"I look for him to keep us in the ballgame and pitch well and win a game," Hargrove said. "I'm not looking to get him out after five if he has the lead. I expect him to throw strikes, which is what he's done every time I've seen him. And we'll go from there."

Towers made four relief appearances with the Orioles before being optioned to Rochester on May 15, going 1-1 with a 5.19 ERA. Club officials chose to send him down, where he could return to the rotation, rather than have him sit in a major-league bullpen. He was 3-1 with a 3.51 ERA, eight walks and 27 strikeouts in 41 innings with the Red Wings.

"It's what I want to do at this level," Towers said of starting. "It's what I feel best at at any level, to be honest. It's not the glamour of everything I experienced the first time up. I don't have that anymore. There are no excuses now."

No excuses, including his debut coming against a team that leads the majors with 76 home runs, is batting .279 and intimidates at nearly every spot in the order.

"There are a few ways to look at it," said Towers, who gained his first major-league win May 9 against Tampa Bay. "They're maybe the best-hitting team in all of baseball, or I look at it as they're normal hitters who you get out like anybody else. If I go out there like, `Wow, he's a great hitter,' then I'm not going to be as good, my stuff won't be as good and my confidence won't be as good.

"I'm going to go out there like, `I'm trying to win and I won't let you guys beat me because of who you are on TV.' "

Maybe Towers feels bulletproof after twice pitching against the New York Yankees, winners of the last three World Series, before his demotion. One of those games came in the hostile environment at Yankee Stadium.

"I thought about that today coming in," he said. "It's Texas, A-Rod [Alex Rodriguez] and all. I faced the Yankees twice, they're just as good if not better, right? They won it four of the last five years, and I think I did all right against them, so I can't really let it bother me at all."

He also won't dwell on whether tomorrow's start will be his last with the Orioles until perhaps another opportunity develops. He's taking Hentgen's turn in the rotation, and the veteran right-hander is eligible to come off the disabled list Friday.

"I'm just looking at tomorrow, then pitch by pitch and hitter by hitter," he said. "I'm just happy to get the one shot, and hopefully I'll do well and make it tough on them to decide."

"It's not a given that Pat's going to be ready to come off the DL on June 1," Hargrove said. "We're hoping, but it's not a given."

Hargrove keeps shuffling

For anyone keeping score at home, yesterday's Orioles lineup would have been the 44th used by Hargrove in 48 games. Brady Anderson and Delino DeShields again were on the bench at the same time, as they were May 18 and last Sunday against Minnesota, but the opposing pitcher in those games was a left-hander.

That wasn't the case yesterday with Texas starting right-hander Ryan Glynn.

"Just getting guys playing time," Hargrove said. "There's 10 different ways to skin a cat."

With the Orioles scheduled to play a day game after a night game, backup catcher Fernando Lunar was given the start over Brook Fordyce in Hargrove's latest creation. Greg Myers was to have been the DH, his first start since hitting a home run against Detroit on May 17. He had started six of the past seven games before returning to the bench, and had nine hits in his last 24 at-bats.

"It's probably kept more of the role players in playing shape than they normally would be," Hargrove said of the lineup shuffling. "The guys who are supposed to be doing the job for us are doing the job. You try to keep the hot guys in there and try to get other guys going."

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