Julio waits to give his version of story

Set to fight penalty, Oriole put on hold by Selig office


September 18, 2004|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

MINNEAPOLIS - Orioles closer Jorge Julio is still awaiting word from the commissioner's office on when he can appeal his four-game suspension for throwing a pitch at the head of Minnesota Twins infielder Augie Ojeda on Sept. 7.

Yesterday, before the Orioles began a three-game series with the Twins, Julio continued to insist he didn't throw at Ojeda on purpose.

Ojeda had to duck beneath the 98-mph fastball, which came one pitch after Julio surrendered a two-run, go-ahead homer to Michael Cuddyer.

"For me, I'm not a bad guy," Julio said. "I never try to hit anybody."

Julio was also fined $1,000 for the pitch, and when the penalties were announced last week, Ojeda expressed satisfaction.

"I'm glad it came down quick," Ojeda told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "Not just for us but the whole league - that they're trying to keep the league safe. And for the fans - that they're trying to keep the game clean. Kids could be watching that."

Julio approached Ojeda and Twins manager Ron Gardenhire the day after the incident and told them he wasn't trying to hurt anyone.

"He apologized, said he made a mistake," Gardenhire said. "That was good enough for me."

Bob Watson, who handles disciplinary actions for the commissioner's office, also fined Julio last year for hitting Chicago White Sox outfielder Magglio Ordonez with a pitch. Julio and Ordonez are both Venezuelans, and Julio tried to tell Watson he wouldn't try to hit a good friend, intentionally.

Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli and executive vice president Jim Beattie continue to support Julio's stance. Beattie said he's glad Julio is appealing, but he doesn't want the suspension to carry over into next season.

"I always think it's worth it for the player to get his point of view across," Beattie said. "I just wish the appeals process would happen more quickly."

DeMacio fallout

Matt Sosnick, the agent who represents Orioles prospects Dave Crouthers and Tripper Johnson, along with Florida Marlins pitcher Dontrelle Willis, was upset when he read yesterday's story that Tony DeMacio would likely be out as Orioles scouting director after the season.

Sosnick contacted The Sun to say, "[DeMacio] is the most stand-up, credible guy I know in baseball. If he does get fired, it would be a huge disservice to the game."

The uncertainty surrounding DeMacio could have a trickle-down effect on the team's scouting department. National crosschecker Shawn Pender, who was DeMacio's top assistant, has accepted a job as the head coach at St. Joseph's University, and a New York Post report this week mentioned Orioles international scout Mickey White as a candidate for a Mets' front office position.

Palmeiro countdown

Mazzilli used Rafael Palmeiro as the designated hitter last night against Twins left-hander Terry Mulholland. Palmeiro, who went 1-for-5 with a home run, has hit .379 (22-for-58) with six home runs in his past 15 games.

"I wasn't going to start [Palmeiro]," Mazzilli said. "But he's been swinging the bat so well, I wanted to keep him in the lineup."

Palmeiro would need to play defense in 16 of the final 17 games to trigger his $4.5 million option for next season.

Higher ground

Chad Olsen, the head groundskeeper for the short-season Single-A Aberdeen IronBirds, has been named the 2004 New York-Penn League Sports Turf Manager of the Year.

For the second consecutive summer, Olsen and his crew had to convert the field at Ripken Stadium to accommodate the 12-year-old players in the Cal Ripken World Series. They also maintain the three youth fields at the complex.

Sun staff writer Roch Kubatko contributed to this article.

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