For starters, Orioles still committed to Daal


But if struggles continue, he may be moved to 'pen


April 17, 2003|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

CLEVELAND - Pitcher Omar Daal signed with the Orioles three months ago because he wanted to be a starter. Other teams couldn't make that promise. He was certain the Orioles would allow it, even covet it, since he provided a much-needed left-handed presence in their rotation.

Daal is scheduled to make his next start on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays at Camden Yards. Nothing he has done so far changes his assignment. But that doesn't mean he should get too comfortable with his role.

He has past experience as a reliever, and manager Mike Hargrove said after Tuesday's game that if Daal continues to struggle, "then it starts opening that window."

"Right now, we're committed to Omar as a starter, and he'll continue to get starts," Hargrove said. "How many? That's to be decided."

Pat Hentgen has been mostly effective in his two relief appearances, allowing only one run in 3 2/3 innings Tuesday. He isn't happy in the bullpen, saying it's "been tough," but he's willing to stay there. Hargrove seems just as willing to make a change somewhere down the road if it remains bumpy for Daal.

In three starts, Daal's ERA is 2.00 through three innings. It increases to 16.20 after the third, with 12 runs allowed in 6 2/3 innings. Hargrove intends to meet later this week with Daal and pitching coach Mark Wiley to try to correct the problem.

"It's only three games. I don't worry about that," Daal said before last night's 4-3 win over the Cleveland Indians. "I've got four more days to get ready for my next start. I'll forget about what happened. I can't go out there and think, `Oh man, I haven't been pitching that good.' I won't do that.

"Everybody can go through this. If, at the end of the season, I have 15 losses, then I'll worry about it. But right now we just started and I have plenty of time to recover. I come here trying to help the team and trying to win, and that's why I feel embarrassed."

The inconsistencies were never more evident than Tuesday, when Daal retired the first nine batters before allowing seven runs and nine hits in the next 1 1/3 innings. His tempo picked up after Ellis Burks, jammed by a fastball, punched a run-scoring double down the left-field line in the fourth.

Suddenly, Daal couldn't keep the ball down. Because of poor mechanics, he lost his arm slot, and the Indians teed off.

"In the stretch, maybe I was pitching too fast," he said. "One bad inning gets me every time I go out there. I feel good, but it's just one bad inning that's cost me the game. I've got to be more aggressive and try to make good pitches when I get somebody on base."

Matt Lawton hit a three-run homer in the fourth inning, and after retiring Brandon Phillips to open the fifth, Daal allowed a double, single, single and double. He nailed Lawton in the back and was ejected by plate umpire Brian O'Nora.

"Our game plan was definitely working," said catcher Brook Fordyce. "He established his fastball down and got a lot of easy outs. They made an adjustment, and then they just started hitting everything."

Daal said the fastball that struck Lawton was accidental.

"I didn't hit him on purpose. I'm not like that," he said.

Misbehaving fans

The crowds are down at Jacobs Field, but at least they behave.

The scene was quite different Tuesday in Chicago, where a fan jumped out of the stands at U.S. Cellular Field as the last out was being recorded in the eighth inning and tried to tackle first base umpire Laz Diaz.

Security and players rushed to the aid of Diaz, 40, a former U.S. Marine Corps Reserve.

Seven months ago, a father and son in Chicago attacked Kansas City Royals first base coach Tom Gamboa, who's now the bullpen coach. Tuesday's incident occurred after three other fans had run on the field earlier in the game.

"When we get to Chicago, I'm going to be on red alert. It won't be orange or amber," joked Orioles third base coach Tom Trebelhorn. "Anyone who comes out of the stands, I'm going to kick his [butt]."

Mora's gray area

Two months have passed since Melvin Mora celebrated his 31st birthday, and he already has some gray hairs sprouting from the top of his head.

"Six kids," he said. "They make me worry a lot."

Mora made his fifth start last night, but the first at shortstop.

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