Day later, Penn exits early

After rainout night before, he lasts 3 2/3 as O's fall, 9-3

Indians score 5 off him

Palmeiro has 2 more hits

Baseball

July 01, 2005|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Sitting in the Orioles' dugout last night, sweat rolling down his face, Hayden Penn grabbed one end of the towel that hung from his neck and stuffed it in his mouth. The game had taken a chunk out of him. It was his turn to clamp down.

Coming off the shortest outing of his brief major league career, Penn made another early exit against the Cleveland Indians. He couldn't get past the fourth inning, couldn't overcome repeated lapses in control, and the Orioles lost for the seventh time in eight games, 9-3, before 27,272 at Camden Yards.

Penn left after 3 2/3 innings with the Indians leading 5-2 and his pitch count at 80. Only 44 were strikes.

"He was laboring all night," manager Lee Mazzilli said. "He couldn't seem to locate. It seemed like he was out of sync."

He eventually could be out of the rotation, though nothing immediate appears in the works.

Coupled with his beating in Atlanta last weekend, Penn has allowed 12 runs and 15 hits in his past 5 2/3 innings.

Mazzilli said it was "too quick" to make a change. "We need to go about everything, not just him. But I don't really see that [happening] right now," he said.

"You're asking a lot of the kid. He's 20 years old. He's shown that he has pretty good stuff. But let's face it, this is the big leagues up here, and when you're making mistakes up, you're going to pay for them."

With the Boston Red Sox idle, the Orioles (43-35) slid 2 1/2 games out of first place in the American League East, matching their largest deficit this season. Included in the loss were two more hits for Rafael Palmeiro, giving him 2,992 for his career, and yet another balk call on an Orioles pitcher.

Ron Belliard advanced to third base with two outs in the fourth inning after Penn began to lift his front leg before pausing to check the runner and lowering it, an obvious infraction that resulted in the Orioles' ninth balk this season. Palmeiro took a few steps toward Penn, pounding a fist in his glove for encouragement, and Mazzilli visited the mound with a wide grin, another attempt to calm the rookie.

"I think everybody was trying to. That's why we had so many meetings," said catcher Sal Fasano, who also noticed that Penn was opening too soon in his delivery and lowering his arm slot. "It's tough because he's just searching for some success right now and we're going to try to help him out.

"He's only 20 years old. People have to understand that. He's out here battling his tail off for us."

A walk extended the inning, and Grady Sizemore lined a two-run double into left-center field that broke a 2-2 tie. Coco Crisp followed with his third hit, adding another run, and Mazzilli made the change.

"The second [start] in a row I left everything up and they took advantage of it," Penn said. "I didn't feel comfortable out there at all. Even when I was getting guys out, I didn't feel like I was in control.

"I'm still very confident. I just have to make good pitches."

Penn had to wait an extra day to pitch after Wednesday night's postponement against the New York Yankees, giving him more time to ponder his last start, when he allowed seven runs in two-plus innings in Atlanta.

He fell behind early again last night, allowing a one-out triple to Crisp in the first inning and a run-scoring grounder by Travis Hafner.

"I've been giving [hitters] too much credit," Penn said. "I know they're good hitters, but I need to take a different approach and go right after guys."

The deficit didn't last long because Indians starter Jake Westbrook didn't throw strikes. He walked the first two batters and allowed consecutive singles to Miguel Tejada - a bloop to right field that loaded the bases - and Palmeiro, whose bouncer up the middle reached center field and gave the Orioles a 2-1 lead.

Reliever James Baldwin gave the Orioles 2 1/3 scoreless innings, but Jorge Julio was charged with three runs in the seventh, two of them scoring after Steve Reed replaced him. Reed also was charged with a run.

Westbrook (6-9), who has won four consecutive starts, got Jay Gibbons to hit into a double play to limit the mess. He walked Luis Matos leading off the second, then retired the next 10 batters before Fasano hit a bases-empty homer in the fifth. He set down 18 of his last 20.

"He had to work into his rhythm, work into his delivery a little bit," Indians manager Eric Wedge said. "He has a very good feel for himself and what he needs to do to be successful."

The Orioles are waiting for Penn to acquire the same touch.

"He's got to get back to using his pitches earlier in the count," Mazzilli said. "You've got to be able to make adjustments. The kid's got such a live arm, but up here it's very hard to throw a fastball by a fastball hitter in a fastball count. You've got to be able to pitch up here. It's different. But he has the stuff."

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Cleveland Indians

Site, time: Camden Yards, 7:35

TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Indians' C.C. Sabathia (5-4, 4.60) vs. Orioles' Rodrigo Lopez (7-3, 4.47)

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