Dominant Ryan credits Wiley


Side work with coach has lifted lefty in past

2 more errors for Mora

April 19, 2004|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

TORONTO - Orioles left-hander B.J. Ryan has been almost perfect on the mound this season, but he can still remember the bad times.

Ryan had a 7.18 ERA at the All-Star break in 2002, and after righting himself during the second half of that season, he came back with a 5.68 ERA during the first half last year.

"It just didn't come with the snap of a hat," Ryan said.

Orioles pitching coach Mark Wiley started doing special side sessions with Ryan, trying to help him smooth out his mechanics so he could throw more strikes. They worked on it every other day before games.

That was the key to Ryan's 2002 turnaround - he posted a 2.59 ERA during the second half - and that was the key again last year, when Ryan quietly posted a 1.08 ERA after the All-Star break.

"I owe a lot to him," Ryan said of Wiley.

New manager Lee Mazzilli came to spring training knowing Ryan was critical to this team's success, so he sat Ryan down early in camp just to remind him.

Instead of using Ryan against selected left-handed hitters, Mazzilli planned to use him against lefties and righties during the late stages of close games.

"That's what I wanted," Ryan said. "When I was pitching in the bullpen last year, matching up, I wanted to stretch it out."

Including his scoreless inning yesterday, Ryan has appeared in six of the team's first 11 games. In 8 1/3 innings, he has yet to give up a run. Of the seven runners he has inherited, only one has scored. He also has 11 strikeouts, and just two walks.

"The key is try to put your guys in situations to succeed," Mazzilli said. "I really think he's running with it. He just feels when he goes out there that they're not going to hit him, and that's a good confidence level to have."

More defensive lapses

If there was any down side to yesterday's 7-0 victory for the Orioles, it was the continuing defensive struggles from the left side of their infield.

Third baseman Melvin Mora had two errors, and shortstop Miguel Tejada had one. They also nearly collided in the eighth inning when a base hit from Chris Woodward trickled between them.

Here's an eye-opener: As a team, the Orioles have committed 12 errors this season - seven by Mora, three by Tejada and two by pitchers.

Mora sailed a throw over first baseman Rafael Palmeiro in the first inning. But Mora came back with a fine defensive play in the third to take a hit from Reed Johnson, and Palmeiro helped him by scooping the ball from the dirt.

Then in the ninth, Mora threw another ball into the dirt, and this time Palmeiro couldn't come up with it. After the game, Mazzilli insisted he isn't concerned about Mora at third.

"I want to be a guy who accentuates the positive," Mazzilli said, "and he's made some spectacular plays."

Like 2002 for R. Lopez

Despite the disappointment Rodrigo Lopez felt when he lost his spot in the starting rotation, he's starting to put the memories of a disappointing 2003 behind him.

After finishing as runner-up in the Rookie of the Year voting in 2002, he went 7-10 with a 5.82 ERA last year. This season, he has yet to allow a run in four games, spanning six innings, and those have been four important outings for the Orioles.

"I feel good because I've been pitching better than last year," Lopez said. "I feel the way I did two years ago. I'm aggressive in the strike zone, and my slider has been real good."

On Thursday at Boston, Lopez allowed just one hit and struck out four batters over three innings.

"In the back of my mind, I still have that starter [mentality]," Lopez said. "Obviously, I'd like to go back to the rotation, but for now there's not much I can do. If this is the role the manager wants to give me, I just try to do my best."

Around the horn

After going hitless in his first three at-bats yesterday, Javy Lopez had an RBI single in the ninth, extending his hitting streak to 14 games, dating to last year. That's a career high. ... Palmeiro ranks 17th on the all-time list with 4,999 total bases. He went 0-for-3 with a walk and a sacrifice fly yesterday. Palmeiro has 1,695 career RBIs, tying him with Cal Ripken for 18th place on the all-time list.

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