With Towers out, Mercedes to get few more O's starts

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Hargrove opts to keep once-sore Bale in bullpen

September 23, 2001|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

With Josh Towers unable to make another start this season, Orioles manager Mike Hargrove apparently will reinsert Jose Mercedes into the rotation.

The search for a replacement has taken Hargrove to where he began, a pitcher once careening toward 20 losses.

Towers' season ended when he broke the ring finger on his right hand hitting a dugout phone after coming out of Thursday's game in Toronto. He had the ring and middle fingers taped together yesterday.

Mercedes hasn't pitched since Sept. 7, when his record fell to 7-17 after lasting only three innings against the Seattle Mariners. He allowed six runs, raising his ERA to 6.11, and Hargrove indicated that Mercedes wouldn't start again this season.

With Mercedes almost certain to leave as a free agent, it also appeared to be his last start as an Oriole. But Hargrove stated a preference yesterday to keep left-hander John Bale in the bullpen rather than risk a return of the forearm stiffness that occurred after Bale went four innings in relief of Mercedes.

The staff leader in victories last season with 14, Mercedes hasn't won since Aug. 15 against Kansas City. But Hargrove is willing to give him another chance in a rotation that lost one rookie but includes two others - Rick Bauer and Sean Douglass.

"It'll probably be Mercedes, more than likely," Hargrove said. "Mercedes has started all year for us. Bale, the one time we extended him past two innings he came up with a sore forearm again."

Bale went three innings yesterday in relief of Douglass, the only run off him a bases-empty homer by Chuck Knoblauch.

Bauer is good to his word

Hargrove continues to be impressed with Bauer, who offers a strong argument for inclusion in the 2002 rotation.

Bauer's three major-league starts have come against two of the best teams in baseball. In his debut, he held Seattle to one run over 6 1/3 innings in a 1-0 loss - the Orioles' last home game before the terrorist attacks. In the rematch a week later, the Mariners reached him for six runs (three earned) in 2 2/3 innings, but Bauer turned in a quality start against the New York Yankees on Friday.

He left after seven innings with a 5-3 lead, but was denied his first major-league victory when closer Willis Roberts blew the save. He gave up a run in the first, then shut out the Yankees until the seventh.

"He has good stuff and he throws strikes with it," Hargrove said. "He's not afraid. That's a key factor in how he's pitched this year, how he's been able to pitch effectively up here. He's not afraid, and if he is, he doesn't let anybody see it. That's a big thing for a young player or pitcher to have."

Each start provides another lesson for Bauer, who scolded himself after Friday's game for hitting Scott Brosius with a two-strike pitch in the seventh inning before Alfonso Soriano homered to reduce the Orioles' lead to 5-3.

"You can't make mistakes like that at this level," said Bauer, 24, a fifth-round pick in the 1997 draft. "You can't hit a guy 0-2 with two outs in the seventh inning late in the game, in a tight game like that. You can't try to do too much. I tried to do too much with that fastball and it ran in on him. And I paid for it the next batter."

The biggest knock on Bauer while in the minors was an occasional lapse in focus.

"From the reports I got and the people I talked to, that was his No. 1 enemy, himself and his mound presence," Hargrove said. "We certainly have seen none of that here."

Wasdin savors success

John Wasdin holds firm to a simply philosophy: "Make the most of every opportunity you get."

That's exactly what the Orioles reliever has been doing.

Wasdin has crafted a streak of 8 1/3 scoreless innings over his last four appearances. He's allowed only five earned runs in his past 24 innings (1.88 ERA) spanning 12 games, and also has stranded his last eight inherited runners, and 10 of 11.

"Anybody who's given an opportunity to go out and pitch on a regular basis will find a rhythm," he said. "I just enjoy pitching when I get out there. I've seen what it's like not to pitch in a long time, so when I get out there now, I savor it. You never know when it'll be your last time."

Wasdin can expect more work before the season grinds to a stop. He's been used in a variety of roles, with Hargrove calling upon him in the eighth inning of Friday's game.

"I'm prepared to pitch from the start to the end," he said.

Dempsey to sign poem

Former catcher Rick Dempsey, an analyst for Comcast SportsNet, will appear at The Gallery of Sports Art today and Oct. 5 to autograph copies of his poem, "Tribute to Memorial Stadium."

The five-verse poem pays homage to the history of Memorial Stadium and includes a photo of the Orioles' old ballpark. The autograph sessions will last from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Signatures will be limited to copies of the poem purchased at the Gallery at Camden Yards.

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