Stuck on 3 saves, Julio waits for more chances


ERA is 0.75 in 10 games

knee still bothers Segui



May 07, 2004|By Joe Christensen and Roch Kubatko | Joe Christensen and Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

The bullpen has been a big story for the Orioles this season - with the terrific success of Rodrigo Lopez and B.J. Ryan and the struggles of Mike DeJean - but for the most part, the spotlight has strayed from closer Jorge Julio.

He saunters quietly through the clubhouse or sits at his locker listening to reggae music in his headphones, and it's easy to overlook his 0.75 ERA.

Julio, 25, blew his first save chance this season when the Tampa Bay Devil Rays' Robert Fick hit a game-tying home run April 9, but that's the only run he has allowed all season.

Trouble is, the Orioles haven't given him a lot of save opportunities, so he's sitting with three saves in 10 appearances after 25 games.

Still, Julio has already gained the confidence of first-year manager Lee Mazzilli.

"I didn't realize that he threw that hard," Mazzilli said. "He's been very consistent. I'm very comfortable with him in the closer's role."

Julio converted 36 of his 44 save opportunities last year and posted a 4.38 ERA. With two weeks left in the season, he abandoned the windup and started throwing exclusively from the stretch, and that's helped make his mechanics more consistent.

He's also throwing a two-seam, sinking fastball to left-handed hitters, giving them fits. A year ago, lefties hit .273 against Julio, and this year, they are batting .130 against him.

Segui return unsure

David Segui is eligible to come off the disabled list in three days, but he's not sure whether his sore left knee is on the same schedule.

Segui said he still feels the knee "sticking" when he runs, though he can walk and hit without any restrictions. He hasn't tried to move at full speed since his last game April 24.

"Every day I push it a little further and see how it does," he said. "It's weird. I can walk around and it doesn't bother me."

Two cortisone shots didn't alleviate the discomfort, which left the Orioles no choice except to put Segui on the disabled list for the fourth time in two seasons.

Segui hasn't ruled out having arthroscopic surgery, though the procedure could only treat the symptoms.

Retirement looms for Segui, whose four-year, $28 million contract expires in 2004. He is batting .298 with one homer and seven RBIs in 13 games.

"I just want to get through the season," he said.

Bedard seeks consistency

Erik Bedard will make his fourth start of the season tonight, when the Orioles begin a three-game series against the Cleveland Indians, and he's hoping to start showing the consistency he displayed in spring training.

It hasn't been easy for Bedard, who bounced around like a pingpong ball after making the starting rotation out of spring training. With open dates and rainouts, the club kept skipping his turn and sending him down to Triple-A Ottawa.

Then, when Sunday's game at Cleveland got rained out, the Orioles decided to skip Matt Riley's turn in an attempt to give Bedard a little more consistency. After going 13 days and six days between starts, Bedard will be pitching with five days of rest this time.

Bedard said the tough thing about irregular rest is taming his curveball and off-speed pitches.

"With the feel pitches, when you throw them every seven, eight, nine days, it's hard to have control over them," he said. "The fastball's a little easier."

By skipping Riley this time, it allows the Orioles to use him out of the bullpen, before he makes his next start May 15. Bedard and Riley have both had the Tommy John elbow ligament reconstruction surgery, but Bedard's was much more recent, and the Orioles don't want to expose him to the up-and-down nature of bullpen work.

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