Ailing O's find salve in expanded rosters

But Mazzilli will limit call-ups to those few who will play, not just watch

August 31, 2004|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

ARLINGTON, Texas - Sitting behind his desk in the visiting manager's office before a recent game against the Texas Rangers, his team buried beneath a pile of defeats and injury reports, Lee Mazzilli was asked if he looked forward to rosters expanding tomorrow.

"Gee, do you think so?" he replied, before checking his watch for an imaginary countdown.

Mazzilli rattled off the days, hours and minutes. He left out the seconds, but only because his point had been made.

OK, silly question.

Mazzilli stopped short of pulling out a shopping list, but it's clear he wants another catcher to ease the burden on Javy Lopez, whose lower back and knees scream louder than any fan. Geronimo Gil, last year's Opening Day starter, appears certain to join the team because he's the only catcher on the 40-man roster.

Anything else?

"We need pitching," Mazzilli said, "and another right-handed bat."

A team official said it's doubtful the Orioles will add more than four players from the minors, and all of them will be on the 40-man roster to avoid a corresponding move.

"I don't think it'll be a lot of guys," said Ed Kenney, director of baseball administration.

Said Mazzilli: "I don't know what the number is. It's unfair to say we're only going to call up four guys and it could be six guys. We don't know that yet. But you don't want to have an abundance of guys who aren't going to play, who are just going to be around."

It's likely that only one or two players will join the team in St. Petersburg, Fla., for the series against Tampa Bay, but a few more will surface once Triple-A Ottawa and Double-A Bowie have completed their seasons on Monday. The Lynx and Baysox aren't in playoff contention, but the Orioles don't want to leave them short-handed.

"You want guys who are going to come up and contribute and play," Mazzilli said. "You don't want to call up a young guy just to sit him on the bench."

The number of pitchers arriving tomorrow could depend on how many trips Mazzilli makes to the mound tonight. Games at Tropicana Field have been known to last well beyond regulation, leaving a staff in tatters.

"You might say it's only going to be one pitcher Wednesday," Kenney said, "but if we get deep into our bullpen, it might be two."

With Tim Raines Jr., Jose Leon and Val Majewski already promoted, and Larry Bigbie and David Segui expected to come off the disabled list tomorrow, "We really don't have a need for a lot of position players," Kenney said.

"We've got Bigbie and Segui coming back," Mazzilli said, "so we'll have two front-line players."

That brings the Orioles back to pitching and catching.

Rick Bauer and Matt Riley, both in Ottawa's rotation after spending time in the Orioles' doghouse, are obvious choices to come up.

"I wouldn't say anybody is a lock," Kenney said, "but they certainly are candidates."

The team seems less inclined to burden prospects such as John Maine, David Crouthers and Brian Forystek.

Maine made one start with the Orioles before returning to the Lynx, and he's accumulated 130 2/3 innings in the minors. Crouthers, who will pitch in the Arizona Fall League, and Forystek are in Bowie.

"They've already had full seasons," Kenney said. "Not that they're not still being considered, but more than likely it will only be a few guys."

The Orioles are intrigued by two position prospects, Bowie first baseman Walter Young and Ottawa second baseman Mike Fontenot, but most likely will pass.

"We're going to try as hard as we can to win as many games as we can," Kenney said. "We're not just going to be auditioning young players or rewarding young players. We're trying to win games.

"We have a tough schedule in September with contending teams. And there's not going to be that much playing time for them. And if you bring a player up and you don't play him, you just started the clock for 30 days on his service time. In this day and age, with the money that's in the game, that's a consideration."

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