O's may skip Lopez's last start

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Rookie's innings spur fears after winter league work

Hentgen goes 6 innings

September 22, 2002|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Unwilling to risk an injury while aiding a Rookie of the Year candidacy, the Orioles might not allow Rodrigo Lopez to make his last start this season.

Manager Mike Hargrove said a decision would come after Lopez throws in the bullpen for pitching coach Mark Wiley. Lopez has one start remaining, with his scheduled turn falling on Wednesday in Toronto.

The Orioles are concerned about Lopez's high innings total and decreased effectiveness. Lopez has lost three of his past four decisions, leaving him 15-7 with a 3.56 ERA. In his previous appearance, the Toronto Blue Jays battered him for five earned runs and nine hits in 3 1/3 innings.

Lopez estimated that he pitched 130 innings during the winter league season. He's thrown 189 2/3 with the Orioles to lead the staff.

"If we don't feel that we're risking an injury from fatigue, maybe we'll run him out there," Hargrove said. "But his last start raised a red flag."

Lopez was named the American League's top rookie for July after going 6-0 with a 2.57 ERA. He's 3-5 with a 5.07 ERA in nine starts since the beginning of August, perhaps allowing Toronto's Eric Hinske to become the front-runner for AL Rookie of the Year honors.

Lopez said he has been receiving interview requests from the media in his native country because he's tied with former Milwaukee Brewer Teddy Higuera for most victories by a Mexican rookie pitcher.

Win still eludes Hentgen

With Mike Bordick getting all the attention Friday for breaking Rey Ordonez's record for consecutive errorless games by a shortstop, Pat Hentgen's six-inning start went virtually unnoticed.

Making his third appearance since ligament-transplant surgery on his elbow, Hentgen allowed four runs in a 4-2 loss to the Boston Red Sox. Nomar Garciaparra broke a 1-1 tie in the fifth with a two-run double after Hentgen walked the bases loaded, and Cliff Floyd homered in the sixth. Hentgen struck out seven, retired 11 in a row after a run-scoring single by Manny Ramirez in the first, and reached 90 mph with his fastball.

Though encouraged by the way his arm is responding, Hentgen has tired of waiting for his first victory since May 2001.

"I'd be lying if I said I didn't care about the results," he said. "I'm 0-3 and I've got a 7-something ERA [7.88]. I'm very disappointed in the results and the way I've thrown."

As the pitcher of record, at least Hentgen could share in Bordick's record-setting night.

"He deserves all the credit he gets because he's a hard worker. It couldn't happen to a better person," Hentgen said.

Minor shake-up

Changes to the Orioles' minor-league department already have taken place, with four coaches being dismissed after the affiliates concluded their seasons.

Triple-A pitching coach Grant Jackson, Double-A Bowie field coach Frank Klebe, Single-A Delmarva field coach Bobby Rodriguez and Gulf Coast pitching coach Ray Loya won't return in 2003. Jackson, a former Orioles reliever, had completed his first season at Rochester, which will be affiliated with the Minnesota Twins next year.

Don Buford, director of minor-league operations, is expected to meet with majority owner Peter Angelos this week. Buford's contract expires after the season.

Buddy system

Even a casual Orioles fan probably knows that Buddy Groom is approaching his 70th appearance, needing two more to reach it for the seventh consecutive season. He shares the record with Arizona's Mike Myers.

But how many people know his first name?

The left-hander is named after his father, Wedsel Groom. The nickname came from his older brother, who referred to Groom as his "little buddy."

"From the stories I've heard, my grandmother and her best friend were pregnant at the same time," Groom said. "If her friend had a boy, she was going to name him Wedsel, but she had a girl. My grandmother had my dad and used that name."

Groom's the second-born son in the family, but his older brother became Weylin. Buddy was known by his nickname through his school-age years.

"The only time it came out as Wedsel was during graduation," he said.

Around the horn

Boston's Johnny Damon got his team-high 30th steal, but also was picked off first base. ... The Orioles have not had a save opportunity since Aug. 23.

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