Mazzilli can see R. Lopez starting, but not just yet

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Young pitchers will get time to gain consistency

Notebook

April 29, 2004|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

The better Rodrigo Lopez pitches in relief, the tougher it is for the Orioles to keep him out of their starting rotation, especially considering how inconsistent their young starters have been.

Yesterday, Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli acknowledged that he's open to putting Lopez back in the rotation but suggested it's still too early to pull one of those young starters.

"Nothing is written in stone," Mazzilli said. "I said that in spring training. If something to that effect will make the team better, then I will look at that option. You can't be closed to anything."

In seven appearances, spanning 16 1/3 innings, Lopez is 1-1 with a 0.55 ERA. He made another case for himself Tuesday. Even though he took a hard-luck loss, he allowed just one hit and one walk in 3 2/3 innings.

Meanwhile, the starting rotation has been shaky. Sidney Ponson, Eric DuBose and Matt Riley have all been up and down. Kurt Ainsworth has made two good starts and two rocky starts, and No. 5 starter Erik Bedard has struggled in both of his outings.

But for now, the Orioles seem intent on giving these young pitchers time to get comfortable before making any decisions.

Asked how much rope he'll give those young starters, Mazzilli said, "That's a very tough decision to make. You're only three weeks into the season. You don't want to take something away from someone you think is very capable of doing the job. They have two rough outings and you say, `That's it.'"

Riley was brilliant in his first two starts, but it's clear his 93-pitch performance in three-plus innings Tuesday wasn't sitting very well with Mazzilli.

"I don't look at it as so much a win-and-loss type situation at all," Mazzilli said. "Somebody could be 0-5 but keep you in the game to the seventh, eighth inning. That's what I'm looking for.

"You can't go into a game and throw 93 pitches in three innings. That's just too taxing for the bullpen, no matter who it is."

Lopez thrived in a bullpen role in 2002 before joining the rotation, and he's eager to get back in there.

"I have to be patient," he said. "I won't say it's easy because I'm not a patient person, but it's part of the game."

Mora regrets mistake

Melvin Mora realized he was being too aggressive Tuesday when he got thrown out at second base, trying to advance on Miguel Tejada's sacrifice fly to center field. Instead of having runners at the corners with two outs and RBI machine Rafael Palmeiro coming to the plate, the Orioles were out of the fourth inning, still trailing the Seattle Mariners 5-3.

"That was a big mistake," Mora said. "I was mad at myself. Physical errors, you have those, but mental errors you cannot tolerate, especially when Palmeiro was coming to the plate."

Mazzilli said he doesn't want to cut into his players' aggressiveness on the bases, but they have to be smart.

"If he's safe, nothing is even said about it," Mazzilli said. "I just think it's a play he has to make without hesitation."

Mazzilli also spoke to left fielder Larry Bigbie about throwing to the wrong base in the fourth inning on Scott Spiezio's single. Ichiro Suzuki raced to third base, and when Bigbie tried cutting him down there, Spiezio slipped into second.

Both runners scored.

"That's a play you can't afford to make," Mazzilli said.

Around the horn

Tejada still had the imprint of the baseball stitching on his left hand after getting hit by a Shigetoshi Hasegawa fastball in the eighth inning of Tuesday's loss. Tejada said the hand was bruised, but it didn't stop him from playing in his 613th consecutive game last night. He went 1-for-4, with his fifth double. ... Mazzilli will serve as grand marshal for Saturday's Westside Preakness Parade, which ends just north of Camden Yards.

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