O's eye pitching, but trade doubtful

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Yankees series puts club near pace of worst month

D. Bautista sent to Bowie

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

DETROIT - After getting pummeled for 41 runs in three games against the New York Yankees this week, the Orioles were threatening to make this the worst month of pitching in franchise history.

With last night's 7-5 victory, the team's earned run average for May is 6.32. The worst monthly mark in franchise history was 6.49, set in April 1999.

The team's decision-makers were still scrambling to find solutions yesterday, but Orioles vice president Mike Flanagan said there wasn't a heightened urgency to address the issue with a trade.

"I don't know if we have to look outside the organization," Flanagan said. "But we certainly would like to right the ship."

After Thursday night's 18-5 loss to New York, the Orioles sent Denny Bautista (36.00 ERA in two appearances) back to Double-A Bowie and promoted Eddy Rodriguez from Triple-A Ottawa.

Rodriguez had a 4.55 ERA in 23 appearances for Ottawa, but in his past 10 games, he had three saves and a 1.46 ERA. Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli said he wouldn't shy from using Rodriguez as a right-handed setup man, especially with Mike DeJean (9.53 ERA) and Darwin Cubillan (4.15) struggling.

"I'm kind of mixing and matching with my bullpen right now," Mazzilli said before last night's game. "I've got to find someone who can get you a little stability."

And though Orioles fans will probably cringe when they read this, Mazzilli offered another vote of confidence for DeJean, unsolicited.

"We need DeJean to bounce back to where he's been and where he was the last few years," Mazzilli said. "That's a big part of the 'pen."

Ainsworth examined

Kurt Ainsworth underwent a magnetic resonance imaging exam Monday, and Orioles trainer Richie Bancells said it showed a bone chip that had lodged itself in the elbow.

"It's not near any dangerous areas," Bancells said. "It may or may not be the cause of his irritation. He got a [cortisone] injection, and then it's just rest to see if it calms down."

The Orioles are hoping Ainsworth can resume pitching at Ottawa in about 10 days. He was 0-1 with a 9.68 ERA in seven starts for the Orioles, and allowed four runs in four innings in his lone start for Ottawa.

The club is eager to get Ainsworth and/or Matt Riley going strong again at Ottawa so it can at least consider moving one of them back into the rotation and move Rodrigo Lopez back to the bullpen.

Gibbons still hobbled

Jay Gibbons also underwent an MRI of his back Thursday, and Bancells said it showed a mild or small bulge of a lower disc. The club is still confident Gibbons won't have to go on the disabled list.

"Ninety-five percent of those resolve on their own," Bancells said. "The fact he's improving every day is a good sign."

Gibbons, who hasn't played since Tuesday, said he was doubtful he could play today but hopeful for tomorrow.

"I haven't done a thing [since Tuesday]," Gibbons said. "They want it completely healthy, so I'm not dealing with this the whole year."

Bautista's exit interview

The Orioles tried giving Bautista a pep talk before sending him back to Bowie on Thursday night, after he gave up four runs the second straight outing.

Pitching coach Mark Wiley reminded Bautista how current closer Jorge Julio struggled when the Orioles called him up the first time in April 2001. Mazzilli said Bautista has some mechanical flaws that need fixing.

"Obviously the kid's got a live arm," Mazzilli said. "But I've seen hundreds of guys like that who don't get anywhere. We, as an organization, have to make that commitment to the kid and make it a benefit for us."

Bautista, 23, is the second prized prospect to flop in an Orioles uniform this year. Adam Loewen had two horrendous outings this spring - walking six batters and hitting another without getting an out.

Visa problems kept Bautista from reporting to big league camp, and Flanagan said, "That definitely hurt his progress."

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