Ryan, Julio set up for switch in roles


Mazzilli signals change with setup man, closer

`B.J. ... deserves a chance'


September 23, 2004|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

BOSTON - One day after he blew the save in a 3-2 loss to the Boston Red Sox, Orioles reliever Jorge Julio is likely to be used more in the seventh and eighth innings as the season winds down.

Manager Lee Mazzilli met with Julio and left-hander B.J. Ryan before batting practice yesterday, and part of their discussion centered on a likely switch in roles.

Ryan has established himself as one of the top setup men in baseball, posting a 2.20 ERA before last night and holding opponents to a .194 average, but he apparently will be given some opportunities to close.

"You always look to find pieces of the puzzle to get where you want to get to," Mazzilli said. "It's not different than making a change in the lineup or making a change in positions.

"B.J.'s performance alone, he deserves a chance, as well."

Last night, Julio replaced starter Sidney Ponson to start the eighth inning with the Orioles trailing 6-5. He hit a batter and walked one, then pitched out of the jam by striking out Mark Bellhorn and Manny Ramirez.

Mazzilli said the change doesn't mean Julio has lost the closer's job that was bestowed upon him, without much grooming, two years ago. Mazzilli is more likely to let matchups dictate which pitcher is used in the ninth.

"I don't look at it from a negative standpoint," he said. "It's a game of adjustments. It's like benching a guy. When he's not hitting, he's not playing, so what's the difference? That's not bad. You're trying to get the most out of them."

Unable to establish any consistency, Julio has blown four saves and is 2-5 with a 4.16 ERA. He's appealing a four-game suspension for throwing near the head of Minnesota Twins infielder Augie Ojeda.

"He's got to get in situations where maybe it's not do-or-die on every pitch," Mazzilli said. "Get him in situations where he can just throw his pitches."

Ryan was visibly upset after being removed in the ninth inning Tuesday with two outs, runners on second and third and the Orioles leading 2-1. Mark Bellhorn lined a 2-1 pitch from Julio into right-center field, handing Ryan the loss.

"It's not my decision," Ryan said. "It's his decision and he made it. I pitch when they tell me to pitch."

Asked if he wanted the chance to get the last out after retiring David McCarty on a pop-up and striking out Johnny Damon, Ryan said, "That's a pretty safe assumption."

Julio was ready to start the ninth, but Mazzilli stuck with Ryan, who walked the leadoff batter and gave up a double to Bill Mueller.

"We scored late [in the ninth]," Ryan said, "and I figured if we got the lead or tied it, I'd be in there, so I just kept myself ready ... to pitch."

Surhoff honored

B.J. Surhoff has been named the Orioles' recipient of the 2004 Roberto Clemente Award, making him one of 30 nominees for the national honor.

The award recognizes players who best exemplify baseball through sportsmanship, community involvement and positive contributions to their teams. Surhoff is a co-founder and member of the board of directors of Pathfinders for Autism, a foundation and resource center dedicated to locating and providing services for families with autistic children. One of Surhoff's sons, Mason, is autistic.

In addition to his work with Pathfinders, Surhoff purchases tickets for special education teachers in Maryland to attend Orioles games. With his wife, Polly, he also has assisted in the Oriole Wives' annual food drive, distributing turkeys to a local soup kitchen for the Maryland Food Bank at Thanksgiving.

Sunday: 50 favorite O's

The Orioles will culminate their 50th anniversary celebration Sunday by presenting the 50 all-time favorite players, as voted on by fans, in pre-game ceremonies beginning at 1 p.m.

Fans were allowed to choose 50 of the 729 players who took the field for the Orioles from 1954 to 2003. More than half of the players selected will be at Camden Yards.

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