No. 5 starter Johnson faces no weak link in P. Martinez

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Red Sox ace yielded 3 hits in opener

Segui activated

April 05, 2003|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Wasn't being the fifth starter in the Orioles' rotation supposed to protect Jason Johnson from days like these?

Johnson's first appearance of the 2003 season comes today against the Boston Red Sox, who will send out their staff ace, three-time Cy Young winner Pedro Martinez.

Consider it the luck of the draw - rotten luck.

Just what the Orioles need after struggling for runs while losing two of three games to Cleveland in the opening homestand. And just what Johnson needs after going 5-14 last year.

"I guess it's going to be tough. He's a great pitcher," Johnson said. "But if I do my job and shut their hitting down, and I'm sure our hitters are going to do their job, I'll be able to beat them. I'm looking forward to it."

Martinez didn't get a decision on Opening Day because his bullpen, minus a closer, mishandled a three-run lead in the ninth inning in a 6-4 loss to Tampa Bay. Martinez didn't allow an earned run over seven innings. He struck out six, and the Devil Rays collected only three hits off him.

Because they didn't play Tuesday, the Orioles could have brought back Rodrigo Lopez on normal rest today and skipped Johnson. But manager Mike Hargrove wanted to give his starters an extra day, which lined up Johnson with Martinez.

"I'm just going to concentrate on getting their hitters out," Johnson said. "I figure, if I get their hitters out, what bad can come out of that?"

Segui back, Leon demoted

The Orioles activated David Segui from the disabled list after last night's game and optioned infielder Jose Leon to Triple-A Ottawa.

Segui, who fractured his right thumb on March 12, served as the designated hitter at Single-A Frederick in his only injury rehab game. Leon returns to the minors after going 1-for-4, his only start coming on Thursday.

Hargrove remains confident that outfielder Marty Cordova, diagnosed with a herniated disc in his lower back, will avoid a trip to the disabled list.

Cordova received a cortisone injection Thursday and remained out of the lineup last night.

Bullpen slows Indians

The Orioles could complain about their offensive shortcomings during the last two games of their series against the Indians, with only two runs scored in the losses, but high praise had to be reserved for the bullpen.

Relievers permitted one run and five hits over 12 2/3 innings vs. the Indians, though Willis Roberts allowed two inherited runners to score Wednesday after replacing Omar Daal.

The only run charged to the bullpen came on Opening Day when Omar Vizquel singled off Kerry Ligtenberg, who was making his Orioles debut, in the 12th inning after Milton Bradley doubled with one out. But the Orioles rallied to win the game.

B.J. Ryan appeared in all three games, totaling 2 1/3 scoreless innings and getting credit for Monday's win. He stranded Ellis Burks at third base Thursday after a leadoff triple, striking out two batters.

At this pace, Ryan will make Buddy Groom look like a slacker with 70 appearances.

"Rick Bauer keeps saying, `You've still got a shot at 162,' " Ryan joked before sitting out last night's game. "Everybody out there wants to pitch every day. There's no happy medium in the bullpen. Either you're pitching too much or you're not pitching enough. You'd rather be pitching too much."

The Red Sox's bullpen, which includes former Orioles closer Mike Timlin, allowed eight runs in its first four innings of the season before allowing six in the last three innings last night.

O's release ex-Brave Rivera

The Orioles have given minor league pitcher Luis Rivera his unconditional release.

Rivera was part of the three-player package obtained from the Atlanta Braves on July 31, 2000, for outfielder B.J. Surhoff. He was regarded as the centerpiece in the deal because of his status within the Braves' pitching-rich system, but he missed the past two seasons with a torn labrum in his right shoulder that twice required surgery.

All three players the Braves sent -Rivera, catcher Fernando Lunar and outfielder Trenidad Hubbard - no longer are in the organization.

Rivera's Orioles career amounted to one game, lasting two-thirds of an inning on Sept. 20, 2000. He appeared in three games at Triple-A Rochester. The Orioles didn't invite him to spring training this year.

Cloninger returns home

Red Sox pitching coach Tony Cloninger returned to his North Carolina home yesterday after being released from St. Elizabeth's Medical Center in Boston, where he received more tests on his bladder cancer.

Manager Grady Little indicated that Cloninger will begin treatments within the next 10 days to two weeks.

Moving on

Tom Vaeth, a Sparrows Point native who has worked behind the scenes with the Orioles' hitters since 1998, took a coaching position with the Winnipeg Goldeyes of the independent Northern League.

Vaeth, 30, a natural right-hander, taught himself to throw left-handed so he could pitch batting practice both ways.

Sun staff writer Joe Christensen contributed to this article.

Orioles today

Opponent:Boston Red Sox

Site:Camden Yards

Time:1:35 p.m.

TV/Radio:Comcast SportsNet/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters:Red Sox's Pedro Martinez (0-0, 0.00) vs. Orioles' Jason Johnson (5-14, 4.59 in 2002)

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