Williams waits bullpen turn

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Near leaving DL, he's eager to aid young group

Tejada sets hit mark

April 29, 2006|By ROCH KUBATKO | ROCH KUBATKO,SUN REPORTER

Orioles reliever Todd Williams has watched enough games and read enough stories to know that he's being viewed in some circles as a potential life raft for a bullpen that has been taking on too much water lately.

"I sure hope they're not thinking that," he said, grinning.

LaTroy Hawkins referred to him playfully as a messiah yesterday, but Williams would be content with a lesser title. He wants to be part of the bullpen equation again, working the middle and late innings, protecting leads and keeping deficits from growing.

But when?

The Orioles didn't activate Williams from the disabled list yesterday, choosing instead to have him do some long-tossing in the outfield. They wanted to evaluate him further after his injury rehab assignment at Double-A Bowie, where Williams appeared in four games. A roster move could come today.

"I feel pretty good physically," Williams said. "I've just got to start making my pitches now."

Williams didn't allow a run in his first three outings with Bowie before surrendering two on Wednesday. He was making back-to-back appearances, pitching a day game after a night game.

"Every game down there, I was more comfortable," he said.

If it's up to Williams, he'll tell manager Sam Perlozzo that he's ready to pitch. That's his basic instinct.

"It's hard to measure," he said. "You obviously want to come back right away, but you can't come back too soon or you'll hurt the club."

Asked if he's 100 percent after shoulder and calf injuries that hounded him since spring training, Williams said, "I don't know what 100 percent is, but I think it's as good as you're going to get now. And it will keep getting stronger."

So should the bullpen with a healthy Williams.

"If he's able to pitch the way he's capable, it will give us a big boost," Perlozzo said.

That's quite an endorsement for a pitcher who's never had a guaranteed roster spot, a pitcher who had to fight for a job every spring.

"It's a good feeling to know you're wanted," he said. "I guess it can work the other way and you put too much pressure on yourself, but I won't let that happen."

Ray's 3-run lesson

Chris Ray didn't take a loss out of Thursday night's game in Toronto, just a valuable lesson.

Ray hadn't been scored upon in nine appearances this season until surrendering three runs in the ninth inning, as the Orioles held on for a 7-5 win. His confidence wasn't bruised, though his ERA experienced a little bit of swelling.

It helps that Ray understands what he was doing wrong.

"I learned that I have to slow down on the mound and not rush my pitches," he said before a 1-2-3 ninth gave him his seventh save last night. "I was rushing too much and not letting my arm catch up to me."

Pitching coach Leo Mazzone went to the mound and pointed out the problem to Ray, noting how the closer's arm was dragging behind him.

"You can't throw strikes consistently like that," Ray said.

Month to remember

With two hits last night, Miguel Tejada surpassed Roberto Alomar's club record for hits for the month of April. Alomar collected 39 hits in 1996.

"Nothing Miggy does surprises me," Perlozzo said of last week's American League Player of the Week. "He's a good hitter. And I see a different look in his eyes, for whatever reason."

Around the horn

Luis Matos, on the disabled list retroactive to April 17 with right shoulder inflammation, is throwing from 90 feet as part of his rehabilitation. "He's going to start pushing it back from there," Perlozzo said. "He's doing good." ... Going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts last night, Nick Markakis is hitless in his past five games. "I'm sure he's pressing a little bit," Perlozzo said. "It's still early enough for him to come out of this thing. I told him to just relax."

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