Ortiz excited by 2nd chance

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

New O's pitcher happy to rejoin Mazzone

Loewen goes to Triple-A

June 26, 2006|By CHILDS WALKER | CHILDS WALKER,SUN REPORTER

Newly signed starter Russ Ortiz donned an Orioles uniform for the first time yesterday and said he's eager to work with pitching coach Leo Mazzone again.

Ortiz had his only 20-win season under Mazzone's guidance in Atlanta and hopes to recapture the magic.

"It had a lot to do with the interest," he said. "I just wanted to have the best opportunity to go and compete again. And obviously with Leo being here, that was one of the top teams we were looking at and hopefully it will work out."

The Orioles optioned rookie Adam Loewen to Triple-A Ottawa to make room for the veteran right-hander. Ortiz will make a prorated portion of the major league-minimum $327,000 salary.

"It was a chance to get a proven veteran for minimal cost, and the man wanted to come here," said Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo. "We'll see if we can't resurrect what he had in the past."

Perlozzo said Ortiz will throw a few side sessions and if he looks ready, will take Loewen's spot Friday.

The Arizona Diamondbacks released Ortiz earlier this month and still owe him $22 million of the four-year, $33 million deal he signed before last season.

Ortiz, 32, was once a workhorse for the San Francisco Giants and Braves. But he pitched poorly from Day One with the Diamondbacks, going 5-11 with a 6.89 ERA in 2005 and 0-5 with a 7.54 ERA this season. He allowed more than two base runners per inning this season.

Ortiz said his release was "pretty shocking."

"I know I didn't throw lights out every single time I pitched, but I think we had differing opinions on how everything went," he said. "I felt like, yeah, they did make a big commitment to me, but then also, I made a big commitment to them. And I wasn't giving up."

At least five teams showed an interest in Ortiz, but Mazzone's presence made the Orioles most attractive.

"The relationship we had, it was great right off the bat," Ortiz said. "He was very honest with me, he didn't sugarcoat anything, and that's what I like."

Mazzone watched Ortiz throw on the side yesterday but said it's too early to know what he'll have to do to regain his old form. Mazzone remembered the Ortiz from Atlanta: "He pitched in quads, down and away, up and away, up and in, down and in. He didn't give in to the strike zone, and he never got tired."

Javy Lopez caught Ortiz in Atlanta.

"He was a pitcher who had tremendous control," Lopez said. "He had a lot of pitches - cutter, sinker, slider, changeup, and he was using them all."

Perlozzo didn't enjoy telling Loewen he'd been demoted but said he'd seen many good things from the rookie.

"He's got nothing to be ashamed of," Perlozzo said. "You know, he got good major league hitters out up here but wasn't as consistent as we'd like to see. From what I've seen up here, he should go down and dominate."

Loewen made five starts and went 0-2 with a 7.12 ERA. His lack of control - 21 walks in 30 1/3 innings - concerned Perlozzo from the start.

"Sam told me there's still confidence in me and told me that they want me back here soon," Loewen said.

The left-hander's contract calls for him to be with the team or become a free agent next season, so Perlozzo was happy for the preview.

"I was glad that I got to be around him, to learn him a little bit, to know what he was all about," Perlozzo said.

childs.walker@baltsun.com

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