ARLINGTON, Texas - The question of whether Jose Mercedes is staying or going took on another dimension last night: Jose Mercedes as starter or reliever.
Trying to preserve a worn bullpen, manager Mike Hargrove inserted Mercedes into the eighth inning of a 2-2 game last night, then watched the Texas Rangers ambush him for three runs to account for a 5-2 win. Mercedes, who has long chafed at bullpen duty, volunteered his services on Tuesday because of yesterday's doubleheader. He's still waiting for his reward.
"It doesn't matter. Whenever I go to the mound, I have to feel comfortable. Nobody pushed me to do that. I wanted to do it myself. What can I say? It's one more game when I don't do my job," Mercedes said.
Coming off a troubled three-inning start against the Anaheim Angels, Mercedes (4-12) was scheduled for a side session yesterday. Instead, he picked up a loss that tied him with former Tampa Bay Devil Ray Albie Lopez for the American League lead.
Hargrove said he is not considering a change of roles for last night's emergency starter, Calvin Maduro, and Mercedes "unless something happens."
Hargrove's bullpen mix also had Willis Roberts follow Maduro to get the final out of the seventh inning. Hargrove hoped to avoid using well-worn setup man Mike Trombley. Ryan Kohlmeier was officially recalled from Rochester before the second game but was not seen as an eighth-inning option in a tie game.
"Today was Mercedes' day for side work anyway. Roberts had an extra day and we looked for him to give us a hitter or two. Trombley had been up five straight days and in four straight games. [Buddy] Groom is the closer. Once we get to the ninth inning, if it's still a tie game we were going to Kohlmeier. If we use Kohlmeier there before the other guys, we go naked behind [today's starter Josh] Towers," said Hargrove.
Mercedes remains a second-tier trade target within a market starved for pitching. Though still interested, the Minnesota Twins and Los Angeles Dodgers have attached little urgency to acquiring a pitcher with a 6.02 ERA.
Trade winds shifting?
The Orioles' expected pitch for Oakland Athletics first baseman and reigning AL Most Valuable Player Jason Giambi apparently will become a pass.
The small-market A's yesterday clarified their decision to push for a wild-card berth by acquiring outfielder Jermaine Dye in a three-way deal also involving the Kansas City Royals and Colorado Rockies.
Giambi's availability was predicated on whether the A's could re-enter the playoff picture. Pending free-agent closer Jason Isringhausen and outfielder Johnny Damon were also on the trade fence.
Neither vice president of baseball operations Syd Thrift nor assistant Ed Kenney accompanied the Orioles on their seven-game road trip so they could remain closer to potential trade activity.
The Orioles may now be concentrating more on Montreal Expos closer Ugueth Urbina and dealing veteran utility player Jeff Conine or Mercedes before Tuesday's waiver deadline.
Urbina failed to pass a physical for the New York Yankees earlier this season, but his condition apparently isn't serious enough for the Yankees not to retain interest in him. The Cincinnati Reds dispatched scout Jim Thrift to watch Sidney Ponson's start Tuesday night.
Ponson pitched capably before several defensive lapses helped turn a 5-1 lead into an 8-7 loss. Reds outfielder Dmitri Young and shortstop Pokey Reese represent intriguing possibilities.
In the mood for nostalgia, the Orioles have rescheduled a much-anticipated '70s Night for Wednesday, Aug. 15 against the Kansas City Royals. The throwback event, in which the Orioles don replica orange jerseys and hats from the 1977 season, was postponed due to the July 18 train accident near Camden Yards.
The incident not only forced the hasty evacuation of Camden Yards, but also deprived fans of seeing several members of the team that went 97-64 to finish two games out of first place in the AL East. The Orioles hope to bring back players for the rescheduled event. Former players will sign autographs until 6:15 p.m. while a DJ plays disco and other period music.
The retro theme extends to left-field upper deck seats, which will be sold for $5.
Numbers tell sorry tale
The Orioles' Game 1 loss assured that they would not post consecutive wins yesterday, something they last did June 28-29. With the loss in Game 2, the Orioles are 17 games below .500 for the first time since standing 71-88 on Sept. 28.
That was the day the Orioles battered the Toronto Blue Jays, 23-1, behind starting pitcher Pat Rapp.
Conversely, yesterday marked the year anniversary of a 19-1 beating suffered against the New York Yankees, which dropped the Orioles to 43-56 and 12 games out of first place.
Pushing in the clutch
Hitting with runners in scoring position continues to bother the Orioles; however, Jeff Conine entered last night's doubleheader hitting .405 (30-for-74) with seven home runs in such situations. Conine had driven in 35 of 111 runners in scoring position.
First baseman David Segui, who's on the disabled list, is hitting .400 (22-for-55) with 26 RBIs. Third baseman Cal Ripken was hitting .338 (22-for-65) with runners in scoring position.
Going the other way, catcher Brook Fordyce entered hitting .083 (4-for-48), having driven in five of 64 runners in scoring position.
Best seat in house
Ripken did not start the first game. Before pinch hitting in the ninth inning, he watched from beside the Orioles' dugout while sitting next to his son, Ryan, the Orioles' bat boy for the doubleheader.