Penn falls ill, loses chance

Appendicitis halts scheduled 1st start

O's to call Loewen

May 23, 2006|By JEFF ZREBIEC | JEFF ZREBIEC,SUN REPORTER

SEATTLE — Late Orioles game: Last night's game between the Orioles and Mariners in Seattle ended too late to be included in this edition. A complete report can be found in later editions or on the Internet at www.baltimoresun.com.

SEATTLE -- While the rest of his teammates were slipping on their uniforms and preparing for last night's series opener against the Seattle Mariners, Orioles pitcher Hayden Penn was at a local hospital to have surgery for appendicitis.

Penn, the 21-year-old right-hander who was scheduled to pitch tonight in Daniel Cabrera's spot in the rotation, reported to the visiting clubhouse at Safeco Field complaining of stomach problems. He was redirected to an area hospital after speaking to team officials, where doctors made the discovery.

The Orioles will place Penn on the 15-day disabled list today and recall Adam Loewen, a 22-year-old left-hander, from Double-A Bowie. Team officials are unsure how long Penn will be out.

Perlozzo met with pitching coach Leo Mazzone before last night's game to discuss contingency plans, not knowing that Penn would definitely miss the start. The club had originally hoped that Penn just had a common stomach ailment.

"Hopefully, it will just check out that maybe it's something that he ate and he'll be fine." Perlozzo said before the game. "We don't know the answer to that yet. If it's more than an upset stomach, we'll probably know that tonight and we can do some juggling and look into other options."

The Orioles could reach into their bullpen and use veteran John Halama or Kurt Birkins, who was a starter earlier this season at Triple-A Ottawa, but it appears more likely that Kris Benson, who was originally scheduled to start tomorrow night's game, would go tonight on three days' rest.

Perlozzo and Mazzone spoke to Benson during batting practice and asked him to adjust his throwing routine, perhaps indicating that he would be the choice to start tonight again Joel Pineiro.

It is also an outside possibility that Loewen could start, but that's unlikely, given that he has to take a cross-country flight to join his teammates today. For Double-A Bowie, Loewen is 4-2 with a 2.72 ERA. He has given up 46 hits and 26 walks in 49 2/3 innings.

Loewen, the Orioles' first-round selection in the 2002 draft, last pitched on Friday, going six innings and allowing one hit and one unearned run.

"I supposed we have to wait to see how we get through tonight's game." said Perlozzo on tonight's starter. "We could always use one of our bullpen guys if we get through tonight. We'll play it by ear and see what happens."

Penn, who was 2-2 with a 1.48 ERA for Triple-A Ottawa and holding opposing hitters to a .194 average, was recalled on Sunday. With Cabrera on the disabled list because of inflammation in his right shoulder, team officials were hoping that Penn would make two starts - tonight and Sunday in Los Angeles -in Cabrera's spot and if he fared well, he'd likely remain in the rotation.

Bruce Chen and Rodrigo Lopez both have ERAs over eight, and Penn would have been the candidate to take one of their spots if they continue to struggle.

Now, Orioles officials have to hope that Loewen will be able to hold down the fort.

Penn was 3-2 with a 6.34 ERA in eight starts for the Orioles last year. He showed flashes of the form that makes him the organization's top pitching prospect, but ultimately he struggled with his command

"I thought he got the ball up a lot and didn't command his breaking ball as well, but he was a 20-year-old kid coming up to the big leagues with high expectations." said Perlozzo. "He was trying to do a little more than maybe he should. Hopefully, he's learned from that and he'll come up and help us. We certainly could use some help right now."

The Orioles' pitching staff entered last night with a 5.55 ERA, the second worst in the American League behind only the lowly Kansas City Royals. They have given up the most earned runs (239) and walks (203), and the second most hits (432).

Before last night, Orioles starters had gone six innings only twice in the past nine games.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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