Daal gets another spin in rotation

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Regardless of result today, lefty assured of 5th start

Orioles

April 20, 2003|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

No matter what happens to Omar Daal today against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, he apparently will remain in the Orioles' rotation and take his next turn when the teams meet again at Tropicana Field on Friday.

Manager Mike Hargrove indicated yesterday that Daal would receive his fifth start on schedule, even if he continues to struggle.

Signed as a free agent in January, the left-hander is 0-2 with an 8.04 ERA in three games. In his most recent appearance, Daal retired the first nine batters before the Cleveland Indians jumped him for seven runs and nine hits in 1 1/3 innings. His delivery became rushed while working from the stretch, and the ball stayed up over the plate.

Hargrove and pitching coach Mark Wiley met with him last week while attempting to reverse a disturbing trend. Opponents are batting .469 against Daal with runners on base. With the bases empty, the average drops to .250.

"If he has a bad start, don't ask me how much longer we're going to go, because he will get another start," Hargrove said.

Pat Hentgen remains in the bullpen, with only two appearances this season. He would be the likeliest candidate to start if Hargrove decided to tweak the rotation.

"That's an option we do have at some point in time if things continue the way they do," Hargrove said.

Hentgen topped out at 91 mph last week, another indication that he's made a full recovery from ligament transplant surgery. "His fastball's better now than before he was hurt," Hargrove said.

Segui `a lot better'

David Segui remains on the active roster and unavailable to the Orioles, but he noted improvement in his strained right hamstring.

Walking past reporters while carrying a plate of food, his destination the trainer's room, Segui said the leg felt "a lot better" than the previous day. He suffered the injury while running out a ground ball during Thursday's game in Cleveland, and the Orioles are trying to avoid putting him on the disabled list.

"He told me his leg feels better than he thought it would," Hargrove said. "I don't think he's ready to get back, but it's better and that's encouraging."

Segui appeared in only 108 games the past two seasons because of injuries, and fractured his right thumb during spring training. He's played in 10 games this year, batting .441 with five RBIs .

"There are other people besides David Segui that this has happened to," Hargrove said. "It's not because he's weak and it's not because he doesn't want to play. It just happens. If we knew why, we could stop it."

Morban's first homer

Without Segui, the Orioles' bench becomes even thinner, and it's already transparent enough to see through. Yesterday, Hargrove's reserves included Melvin Mora, a backup catcher, and a Rule 5 pick used mostly as a pinch runner.

Maybe that's not so bad after all.

Given only his second opportunity to hit, rookie Jose Morban led off the ninth inning with a homer off Al Levine to begin a four-run rally.

"I feel like when you're a little kid and there's a surprise for you," he said, after putting the ball in his locker. "The bench coach [Sam Perlozzo] asked me, `Are you ready?' I go out there and I'm thinking, `See the ball and have a good swing.' "

Morban doesn't figure to receive a start anytime soon, but Hargrove will try to find ways to expose him to game conditions.

"He's on the roster and he's got talent. He can play," Hargrove said. "We've just got to figure out the right times to ease him in."

Julio stays strong

Orioles closer Jorge Julio had saves in three consecutive games coming into yesterday, and Hargrove said he would go to him again if a save opportunity arose.

In each of the previous three games, Julio only had to warm up once, and he threw 26 pitches in the three games combined. Last year, when Julio converted 25 of 31 save opportunities, he pitched on three consecutive days once but never in four straight games.

"He's a strong young kid, and he's throwing the ball real well right now," said Hargrove, whose team never had a lead yesterday. "We're certainly not going to do anything to put him in that danger zone of getting injured."

Julio, 24, has saved four consecutive games after blowing his first two opportunities this season. After his blown save April 8 at Tampa Bay, Hargrove and Wiley talked to Julio about relying more heavily on his fastball.

"The thing is, he's got a real good slider, also," Hargrove said. "It's a very effective pitch when he stays back and gets in front of the ball. Is it as good as his 98-mph fastball? Probably not, but there's not many pitches better than a 98-mph fastball by anybody."

Sun staff writer Joe Christensen contributed to this article.

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