Julio takes blown save in stride

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Saturday homer hardly crushing blow

`I'll throw again and forget about it'

May 13, 2002|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Randy Winn received the loudest ovation among the Tampa Bay Devil Rays yesterday when he stepped to the plate in the first inning. Sitting in the Orioles' bullpen, reliever Jorge Julio pretended not to notice.

Winn's dramatic ninth-inning homer on Saturday night provided a 6-4 victory for the Devil Rays and ended their losing streak at 15 games. Julio served up the three-run shot, which completed Tampa Bay's rally from a 4-2 deficit and handed the young closer his second blown save in nine opportunities.

Julio, 23, has passed most of the tests presented to a novice closer in the majors. He has the stuff to be successful, including a blazing fastball and a calmness that belies his youth. He seems to understand how to work hitters, relying on location and occasionally changing speeds as much as his ability to throw the ball past them. But the Orioles still are discovering how he responds to adversity, how quickly he bounces back from failure.

"Jose Mesa one year had 46 saves and only had four blown saves on the year. He had a stretch of something like 39 in a row, and that's unusual. You're going to have blown saves. That's just the nature of the beast," said manager Mike Hargrove.

"You need to let that blow over and be ready for the next one, and I think Julio can do that. I really do. I think he has the demeanor to do it. Everybody learns."

Julio wasn't exactly a picture of dejection after the game. He sat on one of the couches in the visitors' clubhouse, munching on a piece of fruit and watching television. He seemed just as relaxed yesterday before taking the field.

"Sometimes you pitch good, sometimes you pitch bad," he said. "Whatever the situation is, I'll throw again and forget about it."

Left-hander Buddy Groom, the most veteran presence in the Orioles' bullpen, took Julio aside to check his emotions, making sure he wasn't dwelling on the recent past. Groom's advice: put the loss behind you, trust your stuff, stay aggressive but don't fall into the trap of overthrowing.

"I told him to stay positive and not worry about it. Just do what he's done before. He seemed OK," Groom said.

Hargrove turned to pitching coach Mark Wiley just before the home run and commented on how a 2-2 changeup probably would screw Winn into the ground. Julio, who fed him nothing but fastballs, contemplated a slider but stayed with his 98-mph heat. Winn launched it over the fence in right-center field for his 13th career homer in five seasons.

Hargrove didn't second-guess the decision to stay with the fastball. "If you're going to get beat, get beat with your best pitch. You don't want to get beat with your third-best pitch," he said.

Winn's homer touched off a wild celebration, at least by Tropicana Field standards.

"I've never hit a game-winning home run. It's different," Winn said. "Everybody's waiting for you at home plate. I was in the middle of a forest of white jerseys."

Erickson ready to go

The Orioles announced their pitching probables for the Cleveland series that begins tomorrow, and Scott Erickson was listed as the starter for the opening game.

The plan didn't change after Erickson threw in the bullpen yesterday, with Wiley popping his head into Hargrove's office and saying, "Scotty's good."

That's good for the Orioles, who had their ace for only two-plus innings in Wednesday's start against the Indians at Camden Yards. Erickson strained his right groin muscle while warming in the bullpen and left the game with the Orioles trailing 5-0.

Erickson has dealt with this injury before, having strained the groin while covering first base during a game against the New York Yankees. "It's been kind of an off and on thing," Hargrove said.

Rodrigo Lopez also is scheduled to pitch in the series, taking the ball on Wednesday after leaving his start Friday night with a blister on the tip of his right middle finger.

Signing for charity

An empty pink chair sat in both bullpens yesterday as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Day at all major-league ballparks.

The chairs were autographed by both teams and will be distributed in on-line auctions in October during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Proceeds will go to the Big Bam Foundation, which conducts an educational outreach program aimed at young women without insurance. Among the services provided by the foundation are screening, surgery and testing.

Groom took charge of the Orioles' clubhouse during the weekend, making sure each player who passed by had signed the chair with a black marker.

Around the horn

Catcher Brook Fordyce has strung together two-hit games in his past three starts, the most recent before yesterday coming on May 5. ... David Segui remained out of the lineup with injuries to his left wrist. His status for the Cleveland series is uncertain.

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