DuBose to start second game

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Mazzilli says left-hander will face Red Sox April 6

Bedard still in contention

Baseball

March 29, 2004|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - While parts of his pitching rotation remain a mystery, Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli indicated yesterday that left-hander Eric DuBose will start the second game of the regular season.

DuBose is scheduled to pitch April 6 against the Boston Red Sox at Camden Yards after making his final spring appearance on Thursday. Sidney Ponson will start the opener on Sunday night, and the Orioles are off the next day.

By inserting DuBose in the second slot, Mazzilli can separate two right-handers -Ponson and Kurt Ainsworth or Rodrigo Lopez. Mazzilli won't reveal his plans until he has notified everyone.

"This kid is a quality pitcher," Mazzilli said of DuBose, who is 1-2 with a 4.66 ERA, six walks and 20 strikeouts in 19 1/3 innings this spring. "He knows how to pitch, and he mixes his pitches up well."

DuBose, who threw in a minor league game yesterday, is 1-0 with a 2.08 ERA in four career appearances against the Red Sox.

"When you play a team like Boston, you have to have a pitcher who's around the plate," Mazzilli said. "You can't afford to walk guys against teams like that."

Lopez was lined up as the second starter earlier in camp, but he could slip to fourth or fifth. He made a convincing argument for moving up yesterday, when he held the New York Mets to one unearned run over seven innings in a 7-3 win.

"Nobody ever questioned his arm," Mazzilli said. "The kid has good stuff."

Matt Riley has a chance to emerge as the fourth starter, but another left-hander, Erik Bedard, is making the final decision more challenging for Mazzilli. Bedard blanked the Florida Marlins on two hits over six innings Saturday, striking out nine, to leave his ERA at 2.04. He has allowed one earned run in his past 11 innings.

"He is complicating this decision a lot," Mazzilli said. "Not a little, a lot."

Bedard appeared in only six games last season, none above Single-A, after having ligament-replacement surgery in his left elbow in September 2002. Mazzilli knew little about him beyond conversations with club executives Jim Beattie and Mike Flanagan.

Asked if Bedard is the surprise of camp, Mazzilli said: "Yeah, I'd say that. The next few days I'll sit down, talk to my staff, talk to Jim and Mike and decide what's best for the ballclub."

The Orioles could send Bedard to Triple-A Ottawa, with assurances that he would be the first pitcher recalled. His fate might be directly tied to Lopez, who went 7-10 with a 5.82 ERA last year, struggled in the Mexican Winter League and began yesterday with a 6.00 ERA in 12 innings.

"I know what [Lopez] can do," Mazzilli said. "It's not that we feel uncomfortable with any one of them. It's what you think in your heart that you're going to do, and you do it with conviction."

Erickson gives it a shot

The black Star Wars T-shirt looked familiar on pitcher Scott Erickson, but the No. 89 seemed strange above his locker, especially one situated between Tom Glavine and Al Leiter.

Erickson, who spent nine seasons with the Orioles, signed a minor league contract with the Mets after a tryout in Arizona. He's competing for the fifth spot in the rotation while trying to prove he's fully recovered from surgery last spring to repair a torn shoulder and frayed rotator cuff.

"Each time I've walked on the field, I've thrown the ball better than the previous time," said Erickson, who has missed two of the past three seasons after having surgery, including a ligament-transplant procedure in his right elbow in 2000. "I'm not exactly sure of my chances. I know I'm in the running. There's five guys that have all pitched pretty well.

"I had offers from eight or nine other teams, but I always liked New York. I thought I'd give it a shot."

Erickson has appeared in only three games, excluding B games that don't count in the statistics. He's 0-2 with a 3.75 ERA in 12 innings. His main competition, Grant Roberts, is 1-0 with a 3.72 ERA in 19 1/3 innings. Roberts also is out of minor league options.

In his previous appearance, against the Atlanta Braves, Erickson allowed three runs and seven hits in five innings, but his velocity increased. Erickson said his fastball topped out at 92 mph.

"There's no doubt I feel I'll be healthy enough to pitch in the big leagues for a full season," he said.

Though lacking in veteran starters, the Orioles didn't attempt to re-sign Erickson after his five-year contract expired.

"I was more disappointed that I wasn't able to live up to my end of the deal," he said. "I let down the fans, Mr. [Peter] Angelos and my teammates. It didn't work out so well because of my health. The last thing I thought would be a concern was the biggest problem of all."

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