Casanova comes in for workouts, may stick for rest of '02

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

In need of catching depth, O's take a look at veteran

September 08, 2002|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Looking to improve their catching depth, the Orioles have brought in Raul Casanova for workouts and might sign him for the remainder of the season if he's healthy.

The Milwaukee Brewers released Casanova, 30, last week after activating him from the disabled list. He batted .184 with one homer and eight RBIs in 31 games. Casanova didn't play after May 19 because of a torn ligament in his left elbow that occurred while diving into home plate.

"They asked me to come here. They just want to see me," he said. "I want to show them that I'm healthy and can play. They're the ones who make the decision. I'm just glad they're giving me the chance."

Casanova batted .260 with a career-high 11 homers last season, which also was cut short for him due to injuries. He was limited to 71 games because of a strained right elbow and torn cartilage in his left knee that required arthroscopic surgery on Aug. 27.

A former teammate of Luis Lopez in Milwaukee, Casanova also played parts of three seasons with the Detroit Tigers. He spent the entire 1999 season in the minors, staying on the disabled list until July. Casanova had back spasms during spring training, and doctors later found a benign tumor and fracture of his seventh rib. He signed a minor-league contract with the Brewers the next year.

"I thought I was going to finish with them, but that's the way it is," he said. "I'm trying to forget about that. I have to move on."

The Orioles would have to clear room for Casanova on their 40-man roster, which doesn't include any catchers besides Geronimo Gil and Brook Fordyce.

Hentgen starts today

Pat Hentgen will receive his first start today in 16 months. He will also get the chance to beat someone other than the Detroit Tigers.

Signed by the Orioles to a two-year, $9 million contract in December 2000, Hentgen won twice last season before undergoing ligament-transplant surgery on his right elbow on Aug. 9, 2001. Both victories came against the Tigers, leaving Hentgen 2-3 with a 3.47 ERA in nine starts - the first coming on Opening Day.

The Orioles won't activate Hentgen until today. They kept him busy last night charting pitches for Rodrigo Lopez - a duty that always falls to the next day's starter. As Hentgen arrived at his locker, he found a clipboard and pencil on his chair.

"This is a good sign," he said.

Hentgen made six rehab starts in the minors and topped out at 90 mph. His last major-league appearance came on May 16, 2001, when he allowed two runs in seven innings to beat the Tigers.

"I'm fortunate that I'm getting the opportunity to go out there," he said. "It's a privilege to be in this league, it's a privilege to start a game, and I'll do the best I can."

Hentgen won't be restricted by a pitch count. In his last rehab start, he threw 88 pitches over seven innings during Monday's game at Single-A Frederick.

"I'm not going to take him 120, 130 pitches," said manager Mike Hargrove, "but I'm not going to limit him to 70, either."

The Orioles hold a $6 million option on Hentgen's contract and must decide whether to exercise it, so today's start begins another evaluation of the former Cy Young winner. "Every time a starting pitcher takes the mound, it's an audition," he said.

Hentgen has replaced rookie John Stephens in the Orioles' revamped rotation. Stephens moves to the bullpen, where he joins former starters Scott Erickson and Travis Driskill.

Hargrove indicated after Friday's game that Sean Douglass will remain in the rotation, joining Hentgen, Lopez, Sidney Ponson and Jason Johnson.

Johnson's stomach pains

Johnson is expected to pitch in Tuesday's doubleheader at Yankee Stadium. Hopefully, his stomach will cooperate.

Lasting only 2 2/3 innings on Thursday, Johnson was forced out of the game by nausea as much as the Texas lineup. He still felt ill the next day, walking through the clubhouse with his hand on his stomach.

Rather than be taken down by the flu, Johnson thinks the culprit was a frozen burrito he ingested at lunch or the protein shake he drank. He normally won't consume one before a start. The stomach pains had lessened yesterday, though there still were traces.

Losing runs

Teams can go an entire season without having a run eliminated at the plate because of an out recorded on the bases. The Orioles have seen it happen four times this year.

In the most recent occurrence, Anaheim's Tim Salmon was denied an RBI on Friday when right fielder Jay Gibbons threw out Brad Fuller at third base to end the eighth inning. Garret Anderson hadn't crossed the plate before Tony Batista made the tag, and the Angels had to settle for a two-run inning.

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