The Orioles seemed a little more confident in their rotation yesterday after Sidney Ponson threw in the bullpen and Daniel Cabrera vowed to make his next start, which will come sooner than expected.
They needed good news on both fronts.
Ponson was hit on the right thumb during Thursday's start, and Cabrera took a line drive off the back of his right hand two days later. But they expect to take their turns as if nothing happened.
Pitching coach Ray Miller observed Ponson's bullpen session and gave reporters a thumbs-up. "He'll be good to go," Miller said.
Ponson threw all of his pitches and told head trainer Richie Bancells that he felt mild discomfort, but not enough to jeopardize tomorrow's scheduled start against the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim, Calif.
Cabrera, who will pitch today against the Chicago White Sox, had mild swelling on his hand, but he didn't report any pain or restrictions.
"It looks a lot better than I thought it would," Bancells said. "There's just a little bit of puffiness on the top of his hand, but he has excellent grip strength and he said it doesn't bother him at all."
Texas Rangers catcher Sandy Alomar hit a one-hopper that nailed Ponson on the thumb in the third inning. The White Sox's Joe Crede eliminated Cabrera from Saturday's game with his line drive in the second inning.
"Whatever we've done to tick off the baseball gods, it hasn't been easy for the pitching staff for the last couple of days," executive vice president Jim Beattie said.
Said Bancells: "You feel lucky to be able to dodge a couple bullets like that with your starters."
Manager Lee Mazzilli isn't sure his nerves can take another injury to one of his starters.
"When you're sitting here and you see that, sometimes you think the worst," he said.
The bullpen has been overused since Ponson and Cabrera made premature exits. Before last night, relievers had thrown 25 innings since Wednesday, with rookie Chris Ray giving up game-deciding home runs twice.
Team officials met after Saturday's game to discuss potential roster moves, but none was made yesterday. However, with today's scheduled starter, Bruce Chen, pitching in relief last night, the Orioles were forced to start Cabrera today.
Before the game, Beattie said a determination on call-ups would be made after seeing how many innings Rodrigo Lopez gave the club last night. Lopez didn't make it out of the second inning.
"In the last day or two we've stretched our bullpen very thin. It's been tough on the guys. They've stepped up and we competed in that game [Saturday] because of what our bullpen did early on," Beattie said.
"Today is a big day in respect to seeing the health of everybody, how's everybody responding, Sidney's thumb, Cabrera's hand."
Around the horn
Jay Gibbons made his second consecutive start in right field after missing four games with back spasms. He lasted through the seventh on Saturday before leaving -- four innings after making a diving attempt that went for a triple. Gibbons wore an ice pack on his back before batting practice. "It's no worse for the wear," Bancells said. "It's still not 100 percent, but he's able to play. We're doing everything we can to keep it loose." ... Luis Matos was a late scratch because of a sore right thumb. David Newhan replaced him in center field.