DeJean looks for an answer

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Struggling reliever throws in a side session

Mazzilli miffed by missed bunts

Orioles

May 23, 2004|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

ANAHEIM, Calif. - Trying to work through one of the worst funks of his career, Orioles reliever Mike DeJean had a side session in the bullpen before last night's game, with pitching coach Mark Wiley and manager Lee Mazzilli watching intently.

On Friday night, DeJean entered with a 3-1 lead in the eighth inning and gave up three singles with six pitches. He suffered his fourth loss as the Anaheim Angels came back to win, 5-3, and his ERA swelled to 7.90.

"I think he's got some mechanical stuff he's trying to work out," Mazzilli said. "I think he realizes mechanically he's kind of fighting himself."

But the Orioles are still counting on DeJean to become the right-handed setup man they thought he could be when they signed him to a one-year, $1.5 million contract.

So they have no plans to have him simply work out his mechanical issues on the side without putting him into games.

"I don't have the luxury to do that," Mazzilli said. "He's got to work on that on the side and still find a way in the games to get it done."

After digesting one of the toughest losses of the season, Mazzilli expressed no regrets about going to DeJean to start the eighth inning instead of B.J. Ryan.

With 19 appearances in the first 38 games, Ryan is on pace to finish the season with 81 appearances, which would shatter the club mark of 76 that he tied last year. Ryan told Mazzilli he didn't feel like himself this past week in Seattle, when he came on and protected two eighth-inning leads.

"He's fine," Mazzilli said of Ryan. "But you don't want to fall into that pattern of going to one guy every night. ... That should have been DeJean's inning."

Poor execution on bunts

On Thursday, the Orioles saw leadoff man Brian Roberts fail to execute a sacrifice bunt with two men on and nobody out in the third inning of a scoreless game against Seattle pitcher Jamie Moyer.

On Friday, Jerry Hairston failed to get down a suicide squeeze bunt in the seventh inning with the Orioles leading 3-1. "That could have changed the game," Mazzilli said.

It's one thing for one of the Orioles' major run producers to miss an opportunity, but the Orioles count on Roberts and Hairston to do the little things.

"That's their game, no question," Mazzilli said. "When that's a big part of your game, you've got to get it done."

Said Hairston: "For me, I pride myself on doing those things. It's not like we're not good bunters. We're very good bunters, but in those particular cases, we didn't get it done."

Rusty Surhoff gets a start

Hairston returning from the disabled list has cut into the playing time for B.J. Surhoff. So last night Mazzilli mixed it up a little, using Surhoff as the designated hitter and keeping Hairston on the bench.

"I can't let [Surhoff] sit too long without getting at-bats," Mazzilli said. "You have to pick your spots to get him in."

Before going 1-for-4 last night, Surhoff came up as a pinch hitter on Friday and struck out against Angels closer Troy Percival. It was his first at-bat in six days, and Surhoff said he missed "three hittable pitches."

Surhoff was hitting .306 on May 9, but his average had slipped to .254 heading into last night.

"How do I handle it?" Surhoff said, repeating a question about his decreased number of at-bats. "The opportunities aren't as plentiful as I would like, but the amount of time I get, I'm going to try to take advantage of it."

Palmeiro returns

Rafael Palmeiro was back in the starting lineup after entering Friday's game as a pinch hitter in the ninth inning. Palmeiro gave Percival quite a scare Friday, hitting a ball to the base of the center-field wall, just missing a game-tying home run.

"I didn't miss it," Palmeiro said. "It just died in the air. It surprised me when it didn't go out."

The ball has always carried better at Angel Stadium during the day, and going back to his days with the Texas Rangers, Palmeiro lost more than a few home runs playing here at night. Either way, he said the rest he got by not being in the starting lineup Friday for the first time this season did him some good.

"Being in there every day is my preference," he said. "But it was probably good. We got in at 3 in the morning [from Seattle on Friday]. I feel good today."

Palmeiro went 1-for-4 last night with a ninth-inning double.

Riley pain-free again

Mazzilli watched Matt Riley throw in another pre-game bullpen session and said the left-hander was pain-free. Riley, who has been out with a sore shoulder, is eligible to come off the disabled list Tuesday, but Mazzilli said he's not sure what will happen.

Riley could be sent on a minor league rehabilitation assignment, he could be assigned to the big league bullpen, or he could be sent back to Triple-A to start.

Around the horn

Melvin Mora went 1-for-3 with a walk to put his major league-leading average at .386. ... Sidney Ponson has all three of the Orioles' complete games this season.

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