Towers is going, going, gone from Orioles' rotation

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

8 homers ship him to 'pen

Lopez gets first O's start

April 24, 2002|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Josh Towers has lost more than a turn in the Orioles' rotation. He has also lost his job.

Rodrigo Lopez will get his first start as an Oriole tonight against the Boston Red Sox at Camden Yards. Towers has been moved to the bullpen after three starts this season, when he dropped all three decisions and ran up a 5.59 ERA.

Club officials are most disturbed by the eight home runs allowed by Towers in 19 1/3 innings. Lacking a power fastball, Towers can't afford to keep the ball up in the strike zone.

"I'm surprised [the demotion] happened," said Towers, who gave up three homers to the New York Yankees Wednesday in a 7-1 loss. "It's only three games. I know that I have been giving up the long ball, but one game was three runs and one game was four runs. We were in a couple of the games. It looks bad, and maybe it is, but I didn't think it was that bad. But, oh well. I'll go to the bullpen and I can get my innings out there, too."

Manager Mike Hargrove said he's not concerned with Towers building more innings. He's hopeful that Towers, by going to the bullpen, can work on making some adjustments to counter what the hitters are doing now that they're more familiar with his style.

"Josh has some things he needs to work on," said Hargrove, who informed Towers of the decision Sunday. "This may last one start, two starts, four starts, 10 starts. Who knows? We still believe in Josh a lot, but there are some adjustments that Josh needs to make."

As a rookie last season, Towers went 8-10 with a 4.49 ERA in 24 appearances but won only twice after June. His season ended on Sept. 20 when he broke his right ring finger.

Lopez, signed out of the Mexican League in November, has thrown four scoreless innings three times this season. He's 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA in 15 innings overall in relief.

"They're starting me tomorrow, but after that I don't know if it's going to be for the rest of the season or a couple starts," he said.

Roberts returns

The Orioles made a roster move before yesterday's game to compensate for Melvin Mora's absence, recalling infielder Brian Roberts from Triple-A Rochester and returning pitcher Erik Bedard to Double-A Bowie.

Roberts might not stay beyond Mora's return from Venezuela, where he flew on Sunday after learning of his brother's death. Mora was expected to be on a flight that landed in Baltimore around 10 last night.

Bedard made two appearances with the Orioles, allowing a run and two hits in two-thirds of an inning. He faced the pressure of pitching in New York, and entered a 1-1 game in Tampa on Sunday with the go-ahead run on second base and two outs in the eighth inning. Ben Grieve singled off Bedard, who was removed.

The Orioles want Bedard to continue as a starter in the minors rather than sit in a major-league bullpen. "I need to pitch to stay sharp," he said.

Another pitcher most likely will join the club when Mora returns, but Bedard can't be recalled for 10 days under major-league rules. "It was fun, and just to be in big-league parks was a good experience," Bedard said. "I only threw 10 pitches but I've learned from them."

Roberts was the starting second baseman at Rochester, where he batted .317 with two homers, 10 RBIs and 14 runs scored in 16 games. He appeared in 75 games with the Orioles last season, but lost the utility job to Mike Moriarty because the club wanted him to play every day.

2-HR Gil shows hand is fine

A sore left hand almost kept Geronimo Gil out of the lineup, but he played after hitting early in the cage and stopping by Hargrove's office. Any doubts about his physical condition were removed when Gil homered in the second inning and again in the fourth off Frank Castillo.

Tampa Bay's Paul Wilson hit Gil in the sixth inning Saturday.

Around the horn

Jez Fanstone, the skipper of News Corp, which won the Miami-to-Baltimore leg of the Volvo Ocean Race, threw out the first pitch. ... Nomar Garciaparra extended his hitting streak to eight games.

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