Maine passes audition in O's 1-0 win

Rookie allows Blue Jays 2 hits in 5 innings in '05 O's debut

Palmeiro to be DH today

Baseball

August 14, 2005|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

John Maine might have completed more than a start yesterday, more than five shutout innings against a team that scored 12 runs the previous night. With each pitch he threw, it felt as though he were auditioning for a full-time job with the Orioles.

"Yeah, I'd say so," interim manager Sam Perlozzo said. "I am, too. Why should it be any different for him?"

The difference is Perlozzo already had his first major league win before yesterday. Maine gathered his own with a 1-0 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays before 29,445 at Camden Yards that became official when B.J. Ryan struck out Alex Rios for his 26th save.

Maine (1-0) allowed two hits in his first appearance with the Orioles this season, his recall from Triple-A Ottawa coming Friday night. He made one start last year, allowing four runs in 3 2/3 innings against the Minnesota Twins, and was gone the next day.

With Sidney Ponson on the disabled list, Maine could stick around for a while, though his next start is uncertain because of open dates Thursday and Aug. 22.

"He's earned the right to stay on this ballclub for a little while," Perlozzo said. "If things work out, we'd like to give him another shot at it. It's a little early for me to tell."

A decision on Rafael Palmeiro is more concrete. He'll serve as the designated hitter today in his first appearance since being slapped with a 10-day suspension for violating baseball's steroid policy.

"We'd like to see him get in there tomorrow to DH, and if it worked out OK, fire him again in there Tuesday," Perlozzo said.

Said Palmeiro: "I'm anxious to get back out there. I want to get back to being normal again."

Perlozzo must decide the proper time to return Palmeiro to first base, where he's made 78 starts this season.

"We'll see how tired he is after going through a nine-inning game as a DH, whether it's a strain on him," Perlozzo said. "I think mentally he's more tired than he'll be physically."

Maine, 24, cleared his head yesterday by arriving at Camden Yards around 1:15 p.m. and listening to Metallica on his iPod. "He was a nervous wreck before the game, which is good," pitching coach Ray Miller said. "It means he cares."

Quick to impress the Orioles, Maine pointed out a flaw in his mechanics during a mound visit before Miller could mention it.

"I went out there and he said, `I've been flying open my last three pitches. I've got to close up.' I said, `Good,'" Miller recalled. "I told him, `That's why it takes a while to get here. You have to learn things yourself.'"

Maine learned patience as the Orioles kept bypassing him this season. The organization's minor league Pitcher of the Year in 2003, he was 6-11 with a 4.56 ERA at Ottawa and hadn't won since June 16. He worked on short rest yesterday in 100-degree heat.

"I started off the year good, but the last month I've been struggling," he said. "I was surprised when they called me up now, but I'll take it."

Maine allowed singles to Reed Johnson and Eric Hinske and walked three batters. His fastball reached 92 mph, and his slider and changeup were improved over last year's debut.

"He was much better than we'd seen in the past," Perlozzo said. "He kept the ball down. Johnny really came through when we needed him to. That's a positive step for this kid and we're really happy for him."

With his pitch count at 89 and the heat beating down on him, Maine didn't put up a fight when Perlozzo decided to replace him.

"I was gassed," Maine said, "but I still would have gone out there and tried to give it my all."

The Orioles have scored once in two games, with both Toronto pitchers going the distance. Brian Roberts opened the third inning with a double off Dave Bush (2-6) and Miguel Tejada singled with two outs - the last hit for the Orioles, the only run they needed.

Todd Williams got a double play to end the seventh after a leadoff walk and single against Tim Byrdak. Tejada fielded Johnson's chopper in front of second base, spun around and stepped on the bag, and fired to first.

"I'm not sure how I did it like that, either," Tejada said. "I think it was just reaction."

Russ Adams and Frank Catalanotto singled with one out in the eighth, but third baseman Melvin Mora short-hopped Shea Hillenbrand's hard grounder and began another double play. Williams pumped his fist and he walked off the mound. Maine no doubt had a similar reaction in the dugout.

"The defense was absolutely outstanding," Perlozzo said. "They had me jumping around in there."

Maine watched the last out, shook a few hands, spit and headed to the field. No emotion.

"I doubt that John's a real excitable kid," Perlozzo said. "He gets people out, I get excited. That's all he has to worry about."

Orioles today

Opponent: Toronto Blue Jays

Site, time: Camden Yards, 1:35 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Blue Jays' Dustin McGowan (1-0, 4.96) vs. Orioles' Erik Bedard (6-4, 2.93)

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