Ray: no save shot, no dominance

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Closer does better with game on line

Halama or Chen could be on way out

June 12, 2006|By DAN CONNOLLY | DAN CONNOLLY,SUN REPORTER

MINNEAPOLIS -- Orioles second-year pitcher Chris Ray seemingly has this closer thing down.

Like a calm and cool veteran, he's 15-for-15 in save opportunities.

And in non-save situations, well, he's not nearly as good -- just like most self-respecting closers.

"If anything, it should be a little easier," Ray said of non-save situations. "Because guys aren't going to try to steal bases off you or push that one run across, especially if they are down by four or so."

But Ray's early numbers fall in line with the typical baseball mind-set that good closers simply aren't as dominating when a game is not on the line.

Ray has a 1.65 ERA (three earned runs in 16 1/3 innings) in his 15 save chances. In his other 10 games pitched, he has a 5.40 ERA (six earned runs in 10 innings).

That number increased Saturday, when he started the ninth inning against the Twins with a four-run lead and immediately loaded the bases on two soft singles and a walk. He ended up yielding two runs, but eventually sealed the win.

"I was throwing like it was a save situation," Ray said. "But I'm glad it happened there and not in [a tight game]."

Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo was unfazed by Ray's shaky outing Saturday. He said Ray's workload has been inconsistent recently and, because of that, "it's hard to be as sharp as you want to be."

Besides, Perlozzo understands that non-save situations can be an emotional letdown for closers used to living on the edge.

"I don't think any player intentionally does that," Perlozzo said. "But you realize there is a different heartbeat going on when you are out there to save a game."

Who's left out?

Both John Halama and Bruce Chen are left-handed former starters relegated to the Orioles' bullpen. Neither has pitched well. Halama is 3-1 with a 6.14 ERA; Chen is 0-6 with a 7.62 ERA.

Perlozzo admits it's difficult to find proper roles for two struggling pitchers who are rather similar.

"It's not a good setup the way it stands, we know that, they know that," he said. "We're working through that."

With right-fielder Jay Gibbons expected to come off the disabled list and Perlozzo wanting to have four reserve hitters instead of three, Halama or Chen is the most likely candidate to be designated for assignment.

Since Chen makes $3.8 million and won 13 games for the Orioles last year, Halama, who was a nonroster invitee this winter, could be the odd man out.

Tejada's free passes

Shortstop Miguel Tejada has been intentionally walked just five times this season, but three of them came in the first two games against the Twins. Each time it was done with first base open, and each time it brought catcher Ramon Hernandez to the plate.

Hernandez struck out twice and grounded out in those three at-bats. Perlozzo believes if it keeps happening, Hernandez will make the teams pay.

"That doesn't surprise me; Miggy is one of [the] better hitters in the game," Perlozzo said. "I think going along with that, it also sets up a force play on the bases, too. I don't think it is a knock on Ramon by any stretch. ... I feel pretty good with Ramon up there."

Walking tall

After walking six batters Saturday, Orioles right-hander Daniel Cabrera leads the American League with 50 walks. According to Elias Sports Bureau, that's the most in a pitcher's first 10 starts of a season since the Pittsburgh Pirates' Tim Wakefield in 1993. No pitcher has walked as many batters as Cabrera in such a limited number of innings (52 1/3 ) over 10 starts since Texas' Bobby Witt (53 walks in 50 innings) in 1986.

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

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