Early struggles behind him, Ryan provides lefty option


Reliever has surrendered 2 runs in past 14 outings

May 31, 2002|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Any discussion of the most effective left-handed reliever in the Orioles' bullpen always begins with veteran Buddy Groom. It shouldn't end with him.

Has anyone noticed B.J. Ryan's turnaround? He went into last night's game against Seattle with no runs allowed in his past six appearances, and only one in his past 10?

Taking it further, Ryan had permitted only two runs in his past 14 appearances covering 10 innings, lowering his ERA from 9.45 to 4.86.

"When I was throwing a third of an inning each game, I thought it might take me three years to bring it down," he said.

Ryan has endured only two truly bad outings, but they were extreme. Extended to three innings during an April 15 blowout in Chicago, Ryan allowed four runs and five hits in his fifth appearance of the season. Less than a week later, he didn't record an out against Tampa Bay while allowing two runs and three hits.

It appeared that manager Mike Hargrove began shying away from Ryan in critical matchup situations after the left-hander allowed base runners in 10 of 11 appearances.

"This game is like any other. You have to earn your playing time. If you're not doing your job, you're not going to play, and he's going to ride the hot hand," Ryan said.

His most recent appearances haven't all been clean - he allowed two hits in the ninth inning of Tuesday's game against Oakland, and walked two a week earlier - but he's much sharper and considerably more reliable.

"I didn't think I was struggling earlier. They were just hitting it where people weren't," said Ryan, who's in his fourth season with the club, giving him the longest tenure among Orioles relievers.

"[Pitching coach] Mark Wiley told me, `Keep doing what you're doing, and it will turn.' I was throwing strikes and they were just putting swings on the ball. Sometimes it's not always going to go the way you want it to, but when it does, you just try to keep doing what you're doing and stay positive."

Looking for work

It wasn't long ago that Hargrove seemed to find creative ways to get Gary Matthews in the lineup. Now it's become a challenge to find Matthews.

Despite batting .328 (22-for-67) in 26 games since an 0-for-11 beginning to his Orioles career, he'd made one start and two pinch-hitting appearances since May 21 before coming in for Chris Singleton in the third inning last night after Singleton left with heat exhaustion.

Finding at-bats for Matthews became trickier when Singleton heated up. Singleton has raised his average to .261, the boost coming from a 15-game hitting streak that ended Tuesday. Marty Cordova fell into a slump, but Hargrove knew the only way to correct it was by keeping him in the lineup. Cordova responded with a run-scoring single and two-run homer the past two nights.

"Right now, there really isn't a spot to play him with any regularity," Hargrove said, "but it isn't out of sight, out of mind."

Parrish awaits word

He slips on a uniform before each game, just like any other player in the clubhouse. He even stretched with the rest of the team on Tuesday.

If only John Parrish could blend in a little better.

Parrish wants to begin throwing as the latest step - albeit a carefully measured one - toward a full recovery from knee surgery, but he still hasn't received medical clearance. He intends to pitch again this season, even if it's only a few innings with the Gulf Coast League team in Sarasota, Fla. Otherwise, he might take up climbing walls as a hobby.

"I feel I could go ahead, but the doctor feels there's still a risk," said Parrish, who tore his right anterior cruciate ligament during a spring training game. "My progress is good. I think I'm just getting antsy. I go by how I feel, and if I feel good, I want to play."

But when? The Orioles aren't committed to having Parrish pitch again this season, but it seems inevitable.

Around the horn

Jason Johnson will make a rehab start at Double-A Bowie tomorrow. ... The Orioles signed right-hander Doug Brubaker, a draft-and-follow pick last year. Brubaker, taken in the 44th round out of New Mexico Junior College, would have re-entered next week's draft if he hadn't reached agreement by this past Monday. ... Individual game tickets for the Aberdeen IronBirds, the Orioles' new Single-A affiliate, will go on sale for the first time tomorrow at Ripken Stadium, and also can be purchased through TicketMaster at 410-792-0373. The stadium box office will be open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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