Driskill's years of waiting end with first start

Longtime minor-leaguer happy even if first is last


May 25, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

SEATTLE - Orioles pitcher Travis Driskill will make his first major-league start tonight against the Seattle Mariners, and at age 30, it's something he could never take for granted.

He spent the past five seasons at Triple-A waiting for an opportunity like this.

"I was resigned to the fact it might not happen, but I was going to work hard to give myself an opportunity," Driskill said. "I would have played until somebody didn't want to give me a uniform."

Driskill earned this start by pitching well in a long-relief role, even though he kept having to pitch with irregular rest. After tossing five scoreless innings against the Cleveland Indians on May 8, he went 12 days without an appearance, then earned his first major-league victory with two scoreless innings Tuesday night at Oakland.

The Orioles had originally planned to give Sean Douglass another start tonight, but those plans changed when they needed Douglass to pitch 3 1/3 innings of relief Wednesday.

Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said Driskill is making a spot start, meaning he will likely return to his long-relief role. The Orioles hope to have Jason Johnson back from the disabled list within two weeks.

"I'm going to make this start," Driskill said, "and if it's the only one I make, I'm still going to be extremely happy."

Driskill, who has posted a 3.18 ERA in 11 1/3 innings, said he hopes to pitch about six or seven innings tonight. Hargrove said Driskill won't be on a set pitch limit, but his season high is 85.

The Orioles will take what they can get. It's not often a 30-year-old with 71 minor-league victories gets an opportunity like this.

"You don't see it much," Hargrove said. "Obviously you have to believe in yourself tremendously to stay with it under the circumstances that Travis has stayed with it, and I think he should be commended for that."

Scare at Safeco

Orioles players awoke yesterday to news that Safeco Field was cordoned off as a hazardous materials team investigated a powdery substance dropped onto the retractable roof from a small plane.

The substance turned out to be human remains, as someone had chosen to have their ashes dumped onto the Mariners' playing field. Everything was back in order by the time the Orioles arrived for afternoon batting practice.

"That would be my luck," Hargrove said. "Somebody would drop my ashes and miss. They'd go into the toilet, hitting the only public restroom."

Conine gets first breather

After playing in all 45 games through Thursday, first baseman Jeff Conine finally got a night off last night. Hargrove said Conine has a little soreness in his right hamstring, but most of all he just wanted to give him a breather.

Conine said he'd like to be in the lineup every day, but he understood.

"Sometimes," Conine said, "you need a little time to let out your frustrations."

Conine has hit countless line drives this season for outs, so his .239 batting average is a little deceiving. But after batting .400 last year with runners in scoring position (third best in the American League), Conine has slipped to .226 in those situations this year.

"I don't think I've swung the bat poorly," Conine said. "Probably the most frustrating thing is I haven't been able to get the job done in those situations."

The only Oriole who has started all 46 games is third baseman Tony Batista.

"We've had enough days off here lately," Hargrove said, "that each guy should be OK."

Hendricks camps set

Orioles bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks will hold his baseball camps at McDonogh School in Owings Mills from June 24 through July 12, and July 15 through Aug. 2. For more information, call camp director Mike McMillan at 410-655-1276.

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