Knowing role would be relief for Parrish

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Bullpen probably beckons for versatile left-hander

Baseball

February 20, 2002|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Pitcher John Parrish wants more than the ball and an opportunity. He'd also appreciate a defined role.

Consider it part of his own wish list.

After bouncing between the rotation and bullpen at Triple-A Rochester last season, Parrish apparently has been slotted as a reliever in spring training. The Orioles must find a fifth starter before heading north, but manager Mike Hargrove indicated last week that Parrish wasn't in the mix.

That's fine with Parrish, 24, who will attempt to join Buddy Groom and B.J. Ryan on the left side of the bullpen, with his stiffest competition coming from John Bale.

"I've been working all off-season at coming in at any situation," said Parrish, who made 19 starts among his 26 appearances with the Red Wings last season. He stayed in the rotation at three levels of the organization in 2000, making eight starts with the Orioles as a rookie.

"I think knowing my role coming out of spring training, I'll be able to do it."

His conversion to reliever began last season. Rochester moved him to the bullpen in mid-May after Parrish, chosen in the 25th round of the 1996 draft, went 2-3 with a 4.30 ERA in seven starts. He didn't allow a run in his next six appearances covering 10 1/3 innings, retiring 31 of 33 batters, before the Orioles recalled him for the first time.

A shortage of starting pitchers at Rochester forced Parrish back into the rotation, where he lasted at least seven innings in nine of his last 10 games and posted a 2.60 ERA. His only start with the Orioles in 16 appearances came in the opener of a July 25 doubleheader at Texas, where he surrendered six runs in six innings. He was demoted before the nightcap.

"I think it would be hard on anybody going back and forth like that," he said of changing roles so often. "I just couldn't get comfortable with what I was doing. After a while, I adjusted to it pretty well. I just didn't have that much time to do it."

Parrish has gained about 5 mph on his fastball since joining the organization and can reach 96 on the radar gun. "I think it's just growing into my body," he said.

Maybe he'll grow into the Orioles' closer before the season ends. That job's open, too, and it wouldn't necessitate another leap into the rotation.

"It's crossed my mind, but I'm unproven in a role like that," he said. "If it comes down to that, I'll do what they ask me."

It wouldn't be the first time.

Erickson, Gibbons progress

Scott Erickson threw batting practice yesterday in his latest step toward an Opening Day start after ligament-transplant surgery in August 2000.

"He looked good," Hargrove said. "He had good stuff, and he threw strikes."

Meanwhile, Jay Gibbons appears to have recovered from August surgery after breaking the hamate bone in his right hand. He's also about 10 pounds lighter than last season.

"His arms still look like my legs," Hargrove said, "but he looks a lot less restricted. Dropping the 10 pounds has helped him. He looks good. I asked him if he lost weight or if his neck got longer."

Gibbons, who hit 15 homers in 73 games as a rookie, won't be locked into one position. He can play the corner outfield positions and first base, and also serve as the left-handed designated hitter.

"We're looking at him getting a lot of at-bats," Hargrove said.

Most of the position players had reported by the time yesterday's workout concluded. The first full-squad workout takes place today.

Surprise promotion

A catching shortage has taken Eli Whiteside from the early minor-league camp to the big-league clubhouse.

Whiteside sits at a locker with outfielder Domingo Martinez's nameplate above it, another indication he wasn't supposed to be here.

"They just told me to come, so I showed up and got right into it," he said.

Whiteside, a sixth-round pick in last year's draft, only has the look of a veteran. His graying hair, premature for a 22-year-old, belies his youth and inexperience at the professional level.

After signing with the Orioles, Whiteside debuted with Single-A Delmarva on June 21 and finished second on the team with seven home runs. He figures to benefit from sessions with hitting coach Terry Crowley and first base coach Rick Dempsey, who works with the catchers.

Club forms TV network

The Orioles announced the creation of the Orioles Television Network, which will produce and market over-the-air game telecasts beginning this season. WJZ (Channel 13) and WNUV (Channel 54) will be the network's flagship stations. Orioles Television will produce 74 game broadcasts this season.

The rest of the Orioles' television schedule will be on Comcast SportsNet.

"The Orioles will use the same on-air talent as our cable partner, Comcast SportsNet, but the games themselves will be produced separately, allowing us to give a distinct look to our broadcast," said John Claiborne, general manager of the Orioles Television Network.

Last year's announcers, Michael Reghi, Jim Palmer and Mike Flanagan, will return.

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