Maduro is still grand despite slam

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

One bad pitch in B game doesn't dim `great' spring

Vinas is hit as coach, too

March 12, 2002|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

JUPITER, Fla. - Knowing that he was hidden on one of the back fields yesterday, Orioles pitcher Calvin Maduro wanted to make sure a few visitors to the clubhouse knew about his grand slam.

Calvin Maduro hit a grand slam?

"No, I gave it up," he said with a grin.

Maduro hadn't lost his appetite because of it - he slapped a little more mustard on his sandwich while describing the bases-clearing blast by Eli Marrero - and he wasn't going to lose any sleep, either. It was one bad pitch in an otherwise solid start, the only runs allowed by Maduro in four innings of the Orioles' B game against the St. Louis Cardinals that preceded their 4-1 victory over the Montreal Expos.

Manager Mike Hargrove credited the wind for carrying the ball over the fence, but Maduro said, "The guy crushed it. It was legit."

So is Maduro's bid for the fifth starter's job.

He's given up only one run in seven spring innings in games that count in the Grapefruit League standings, allowing five hits and walking none.

"I feel great. My curveball's finally here. I just have to spot it now," he said.

"They hit a grand slam, which was the bad part of the game, but I had more positive things about the game than I probably had my last start. I was staying back, my sinker was good, my fastball was really good."

Maduro continues to hold off rookie candidates Sean Douglass, Rick Bauer and John Stephens, though Bauer allowed only one run in five innings yesterday. Hargrove isn't ready to declare a winner, but when asked if Maduro has done anything to give him second thoughts, he said, "No, he's done a very good job."

"I don't know what they might be thinking," Maduro said. "I just want to keep throwing well. Even with the grand slam today, I think I threw really good. I feel like I'm maybe two or three starts away and I'll be right there."

Maduro couldn't keep the ball down while warming in the bullpen, until pitching coach Mark Wiley instructed him to lower his arm slot. "As soon as I dropped it, I was down in the zone," Maduro said.

Coach Vinas sheds mask

The next phase of Julio Vinas' professional career began sooner than he wanted, but he's hoping to take full advantage of it.

Vinas was added to the Orioles' spring coaching staff and will serve as a roving hitting and catching instructor with the lower affiliates this season.

He rejoined the organization last year as a Triple-A catcher, but aggravated an elbow injury and couldn't play.

Rochester manager Andy Etchebarren suggested in July that Vinas coach at the minor-league complex in Sarasota, Fla., while trying to strengthen his arm for a possible return.

"I really had a good time. It was fulfilling," said Vinas, 29. "They asked me if I wanted to be a hitting coach and I said, `Yes.' "

Vinas never has fully recovered from multiple elbow surgeries. He batted .352 at Rochester in 1998 and .312 the following season, but couldn't make it to the majors.

"I definitely needed to catch to have a shot to be up there in the big leagues. I've played first, third and the outfield, but my main position was catching," he said.

"My elbow's never healed properly. I figured I'd sit out and see what happened, but I'm actually having a really good time doing this. It's fun. It's not the same as playing, but you're still in baseball and you're helping out players.

"It's exciting. Whenever you put on a uniform, regardless of whether you're playing or helping players out, it's always exciting. It's definitely better than working behind a desk from 9 to 5."

After splitting the 2000 season in the Cleveland and Boston organizations, Vinas appeared in only 38 games with Rochester last summer, batting .218 with three homers and 21 RBIs. All of his starts came at first base.

"I'm only 29 years old. I know I can still play if I really wanted to and I had offers from teams. But last year I met a lot of young kids and I saw that I helped them out, and they were all asking me to help them again next year," he said. "You make a lot of nice connections with these kids. You see them getting better. It was fulfilling for me."

Around the horn

The Orioles will make their first spring cuts today. ... The Orioles turned three double plays during Bauer's five-inning start, another with Matt Riley pitching in the sixth and another with Willis Roberts pitching in the seventh.

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