Eyeing mark, Julio is stuck on 25 saves

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Closer two behind Olson for Orioles' rookie record

September 19, 2002|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

The Orioles' rookie saves record sits in front of Jorge Julio as if enclosed in glass. He sees it, but he can't touch it.

He can't even reach for it. Not with the Orioles holding his arms at his side.

Julio is still stuck on 25 saves, with his last chance coming on Aug. 15. He remains two behind Gregg Olson. He entered an Aug. 21 game against Tampa Bay in the ninth inning with the Orioles leading 2-1, but manager Mike Hargrove made a pitching change after Julio walked two batters.

Buddy Groom got the last two outs, and the appearance didn't count as an official opportunity for Julio, who picked up his fifth win the next night.

"When there's an opportunity, I'll be ready," he said before taking the field for pre-game stretching. "It'll be the same for me."

With the Orioles losing 21 of their past 25 games, Julio had been used only five times since Aug. 24 but still ranked second on the team with 64 appearances. He threw a scoreless inning in Sunday's 8-3 win over Boston, lowering his ERA to 2.08.

"He understands that he needs to pitch as regularly as we can get him to pitch to stay sharp when it's time for him to step in and close a ballgame," Hargrove said.

Julio's last save opportunity also represented the last one for the Orioles. They'd gladly call upon him if leading by three runs or fewer in the ninth.

"You can't manufacture them," Hargrove said.

Different experience

Ed Rogers has made one appearance, with his major-league debut coming Sept. 5 as a replacement at shortstop. He's here to gain experience in a different manner.

The Orioles added Rogers to their expanded roster so he could receive tutelage from bench coach Sam Perlozzo, who works with the club's infielders.

One of the primary lessons involves Rogers' tendency to one-hand grounders and charge the ball, an overly aggressive approach, which leads to more errors.

"There are some things we're trying to get him to do better fundamentally," Hargrove said.

Richard's slump

In a 10-for-69 slump over his past 22 games before last night, Chris Richard was held out of the lineup for the second consecutive game against a right-handed starter. He then pinch-hit for Mike Bordick in the seventh inning last night and grounded out.

Richard, who entered Tuesday's game at first base in the ninth inning, is hitting .237 with four homers and 21 RBIs in 135 at-bats since coming off the disabled list on July 31.

"A lot of times you can play your way out of something like that," Hargrove said, "but I think there comes a point in time where you just make the situation worse."

Matthews update

Gary Matthews took live batting practice yesterday to test his right wrist, which began bothering him a few days ago while hitting from the right side.

Before last night, his only appearance since going on the disabled list Aug. 24 came as a defensive replacement in right field in the ninth inning of Tuesday's game. He's also available to pinch-run, but the Orioles aren't certain when he'll bat in a game.

"I'm not that far off," he said. "I had a little setback, but I think it's going to be OK. It's definitely nothing that's career threatening, but I don't want to be in a position where it requires surgery because I've aggravated it. So I'll take it day by day while it continues to get better."

Matthews said the wrist became sore after trying to hit the ball to right field while swinging against third base coach Tom Trebelhorn.

"Trebs got one in on me, and I did something weird," he said.

While hesitant to begin composing his 2003 roster, Hargrove expects Matthews to be counted among his starting outfielders.

It's quite a jump for a player once projected as a fourth or fifth outfielder after coming to the Orioles in an April trade with the New York Mets.

"It really depends what we do in the offseason," he said, "but it's hard for me to imagine our outfield on Opening Day next season without Gary in it. I guess that's about as far as I can go down that road."

W. Roberts returns

Willis Roberts returned to the bullpen last night after completing his five-game suspension. He replaced Sean Douglass in the eighth inning.

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