Hargrove gives Julio support, not ball

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Groom explanation given

Driskill pays dividends

May 27, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

SEATTLE - Orioles manager Mike Hargrove called closer Jorge Julio into his office after Saturday's game to explain why it was Buddy Groom, and not Julio, who closed out the 3-2 victory over the Seattle Mariners.

Groom recorded the final five outs after entering in the eighth inning with a two-run lead. To end that inning, right fielder Jay Gibbons made the play of the game when he charged a shallow fly from Bret Boone and bounced a perfect throw to nail Jeff Cirillo at home plate.

Julio had loosened up in the bullpen, but Hargrove stayed with the left-handed-throwing Groom against the left-handed-hitting John Olerud (grounder to second), switch-hitting Ruben Sierra (strikeout) and switch-hitting Carlos Guillen (grounder to shortstop).

It was Groom's first save of the season, and Hargrove said it had nothing to do with Julio's recent struggles. Olerud naturally hits right-handers better than left-handers, all six of Sierra's home runs have come against right-handers, and Guillen is batting .151 against lefties.

"It just made sense," Hargrove said.

Julio said he understood.

Until May 10, he was 2-0 with a 0.96 ERA with seven saves in eight chances. Since then, he is 0-3 with a 10.80 ERA, and two blown saves in four opportunities.

Even when Julio, 23, was dominating teams, Hargrove said he reserved the right to use Groom in save spots where the matchups were more favorable.

"Jorge's not Dennis Eckersley," Hargrove said. "He's got good stuff, and at some point in time, after he gains experience, he may be as good as Eckersley or [Mariano] Rivera. But he's still a young pitcher, and he needs to be protected."

Discovering Driskill

At age 30, Travis Driskill had never pitched in the big leagues until April 26, but on this road trip, he earned victories over two of last year's playoff teams, Oakland and Seattle.

How did the Orioles find him? In scouting terms, Driskill was considered the quintessential Four-A player: overqualified for Triple-A, but seemingly underqualified for the big leagues.

He went 11-5 with a 3.78 ERA at Triple-A New Orleans a year ago but was buried beneath the pile of young pitchers in the Houston Astros' organization.

Orioles vice president for baseball operations Syd Thrift said he signed Driskill on a recommendation from his special assistant, Larry Himes.

"I think we can all learn a lot from this," Thrift said. "Everybody is so caught up in the radar gun readings, but can this guy pitch? You bet he can. Pitching aptitude is so critical."

After pitching two innings of scoreless relief Tuesday against Oakland for his first major-league victory, Driskill held the Mariners to one run in six-plus innings Saturday in his first major-league start.

Hargrove said the Orioles will need another spot start Saturday against Seattle, and Driskill will probably get the nod.

"From a personal standpoint, it's something I always thought I'd be able to do if I ever got to the major leagues," Driskill said.

Around the horn

B.J. Ryan retired all four batters he faced Saturday. "He was absolutely lights out," Hargrove said. "That's the best I've seen him throw in the last two years." ... Rick Bauer's struggles continued yesterday when he allowed two runs in one inning of work. His overall ERA is 4.44.

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