Bowie's Maine, D. Bautista throw blanks at opposition

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Young pitchers combine for 10 scoreless innings

Orioles

April 11, 2004|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - One week into the season, the Orioles have had a few struggles at the big league level, but the organization was all aflutter yesterday over the performances of two pitching prospects with the Double-A Bowie Baysox.

As first impressions go, John Maine and Denny Bautista couldn't have done much better. In Bowie's first two games, the two combined to pitch 10 scoreless innings, allowing just three hits and striking out 15.

Maine, 22, got the win Thursday, holding the Harrisburg Senators to one hit, two walks and one unearned run in five innings. He was named the Orioles' Minor League Pitcher of the Year last season, and after dominating at short-season Single-A Aberdeen, Single-A Delmarva and Single-A Frederick, he looks ready to take on the Eastern League.

"I guess you would say he has a feel for what he's doing," Bowie manager Dave Trembley said. "His command is exceptional, especially his fastball."

Bautista, 23, was the ballyhooed prospect who came from the Florida Marlins in the trade for Jeff Conine last season. His stock fell this spring, when it was learned he is 2 years older than the roster was showing. The Orioles were hoping to have him in big league camp, but a visa issue kept him from reporting on time.

So, it was exciting for the Orioles' brass to see Bautista strike out eight Harrisburg batters in five innings Friday. He allowed two hits and two walks and proved he could throw all three of his pitches for strikes.

Trembley said he saw the 6-foot-5 Bautista in the Single-A Florida State League two years ago and projected him to be a back-of-the rotation, major league starter. After watching Bautista in spring training, and again yesterday, Trembley is confident he can be a No. 1 or No. 2 starter.

"He's really got a chance to be special," Trembley said. "His arm's real nice and easy, and then all of a sudden, boom, there it is."

Julio's still the one

Orioles closer Jorge Julio blew his first save opportunity Friday night, when he surrendered a game-tying, bases-empty home run to Robert Fick.

With the way B.J. Ryan has been pitching - three appearances, 4 1/3 innings, no runs, three hits, one walk, five strikeouts - a closer controversy could be brewing. But Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli stopped the idea in its tracks yesterday.

"No," he said. "[Julio's] my closer."

Maybe it's just the ballpark. In 11 games at Tropicana Field, Julio has surrendered three home runs and posted an 8.43 ERA.

Rotation plans

With another day off tomorrow, Mazzilli will juggle his pitching rotation a bit. Sidney Ponson will stay on his usual four days' rest and face the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday.

The rest of the rotation will have extra rest, but Mazzilli said he doesn't plan to skip anybody the next time through, including last night's starter, Erik Bedard.

J. Lopez dislikes DH role

Javy Lopez hit a two-run homer Friday in his first game as the Orioles' designated hitter, but that doesn't mean he likes the role.

"It's hard," he said. "It's hard to go at bat and wait a few innings until you go up again. At the same time, it's boring. But I'd rather be DH-ing than not playing at all."

Mazzilli said his reason for using Lopez as the DH on Friday was that he caught all 13 innings of Thursday's night's victory over Boston. But Lopez will probably get the DH assignment for most games when the Orioles face a left-handed starter.

In an interesting twist Friday, backup catcher Keith Osik singled in the 10th inning, and Mazzilli used Jose Bautista to pinch-run for him. So Lopez had to go in to catch, and the Orioles officially lost their DH.

With Osik out of the game, if Lopez had gotten hurt, the Orioles would have been scrambling for an emergency catcher. Mazzilli said he had someone in mind but would prefer that player doesn't know so he doesn't get distracted.

Orioles first base coach Rick Dempsey guessed that the emergency catcher on the roster is utility infielder Luis Lopez.

Around the horn

Adam Loewen, the team's first-round pick of the 2002 draft, had a less spectacular debut for Single-A Delmarva on Friday, allowing three runs on four hits in three innings against Charleston. ... Orioles longtime bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks will hold his annual baseball camps for children 7-16 from June 21 through July 9, and from July 12 to July 30. For more information, call 410-922-9438, or e-mail campelrod@yahoo.com.

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