Cabrera cut short in Jays' 10-4 rout

Struggling rookie lasts only 2 1/3 innings

Orioles fall for 5th game in a row

August 22, 2004|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

To steer themselves out of a bad skid, the kind that can wreck an entire season, the Orioles apparently must avoid the patch of ice that used to be one of the coldest teams in the majors.

So far, the Toronto Blue Jays have done nothing to improve the ride, and the Orioles clearly need a steady hand in the rotation to guide them. But whose?

One more defeat, and they will be swept in consecutive series by clubs in first and last place. The losing streak already has reached five games, and concerns about their young starters stretch much further.

Looking like he's hit a wall, rookie Daniel Cabrera turned in the shortest outing of his brief major league career yesterday, and the Blue Jays won easily again, 10-4, before 38,079 at Camden Yards.

The Orioles have been outscored 24-8 in the first two games against Toronto, and 43-13 on this homestand. Once bold enough to peek at the wild-card standings, they now must watch over their shoulders for fourth-place Tampa Bay.

"I think sometimes when guys go down [with injuries], you try to do too much," manager Lee Mazzilli said. "You can't try to pick up the whole team. Everyone just has to do their part."

Cabrera (9-6) allowed eight runs and eight hits in 2 1/3 innings, his pitch count at 57 when Mazzilli had had enough. Eleven of the 18 batters reached base, with Carlos Delgado crushing a two-run homer in the second.

"The problem is I never throw the first pitch for a strike," he said, "and the guys are hitting me."

The Orioles (57-64) tried some on-site counseling, with Javy Lopez and Miguel Tejada visiting the mound in the second, and Lopez, Tejada, Rafael Palmeiro and Melvin Mora gathering in the third after Gabe Gross looped an 0-2 curveball into left field for a single.

Little good it did.

Johnson hit a two-run double in the second one batter after Gross reached, and Orlando Hudson followed with an RBI single. After an out, Delgado deposited a hanging curveball onto the flag court.

Cabrera's two shortest outings as a starter have come in his past two starts, both against Toronto. He allowed seven runs and eight hits in 3 2/3 innings last Sunday at SkyDome before the Orioles rallied for an 11-7 win.

"I see signs of him trying too hard," Mazzilli said. "The starters, with the guys we have down right now, they're trying to pitch shutouts and you can't let that happen. You've just got to let it go. He's got to get back the little swagger that he had early on. I don't see that right now."

With one victory since July 20, Cabrera either is more tired than he'll admit, or his confidence is eroding - maybe both. He's thrown 145 innings this year, including 27 1/3 at Double-A Bowie before an unexpected promotion. His previous high was 125 1/3 last year at Single-A Delmarva.

"I don't see fatigue as a factor," Mazzilli said. "When you're young and you have success real quick, you think it's going to stay there forever."

Indications of his pending struggle arrived early. He walked the first batter he faced and hit the second.

"It just looked to me like he was trying to place the ball," said pitching coach Ray Miller. "When we got in this good run, we were keeping the ball down, getting ahead and mixing pitches. Now everybody's trying to miss the bat on every pitch, and that's when you get yourself in trouble."

Erik Bedard, who's won two of his past nine starts, will try to prevent another sweep today. Dave Borkowski, who took the loss Friday night, has allowed nine runs in his past two appearances covering 8 2/3 innings.

"It looks to me like everybody's dead-armed," said Miller, who will cut back on Cabrera's running between starts. "It's a command thing."

Mazzilli said he's trying to figure out "exactly what our rotation is." Asked about Borkowski, he said, "He's planning on making his next start right now."

Kurt Ainsworth isn't an option, since he's been shut down with tendinitis in his right arm. John Maine fell to 4-7 Friday at Triple-A Ottawa.

Though he's not on the 40-man roster, Bruce Chen is 4-3 with a 3.26 ERA in Ottawa, and his 114 strikeouts rank second in the International League.

Mazzilli indicated that it's too early to recall left-hander Matt Riley. Demoted in early July, Riley is 1-1 with a 1.80 ERA, 14 walks and 40 strikeouts in 30 innings. He tossed 4 2/3 scoreless innings Wednesday, striking out eight.

"This is a kid who has a gifted arm," said Mazzilli, who can expand his roster on Sept. 1. "He needs to get everything in line and focus on what he wants to do. That's what he's doing now."

The day started with the Orioles inducting outfielder Brady Anderson and longtime umpires attendant Ernie Tyler into their Hall of Fame. Reminders of better times were everywhere - former Cy Young winners, Most Valuable Players. Beneath a gloomy sky came a few rays of sunshine.

Then it poured on Cabrera.

The Orioles tried to rally for him, scoring twice in the fifth on a bases-empty homer by Karim Garcia and a run-scoring single by David Newhan, and once in the sixth on Lopez's RBI single.

"I feel good," Cabrera said. "I'm just trying to throw strikes. Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's bad."

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