Adam Loewen could have done that.

That was my first reaction after watching Russ Ortiz pitch Saturday night. My second? Didn't he used to be smaller?

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Despite being spotted a 6-1 lead against the Braves, Ortiz couldn't stick around long enough to get the win in his first start for the Orioles. He lasted 4 1/3 innings, surrendered three runs and allowed 12 baserunners in the process.

Ortiz showed flashes of the ability that once made him a 21-game winner, tossing a tidy 1-2-3 third inning against the heart of the Braves' batting order.

But more often, he demonstrated why the Diamondbacks were willing to eat the remaining $22 million of his ridiculous contract to simply be rid of him. Ortiz has lasted more than five innings just once in seven starts this season, and I can't help but think that conditioning has something to do with that. I thought the O's were getting a former 20-game winner, not the second coming of Sidney Ponson.

Maybe the weight isn't the issue. On the Giants' roster from 2001 - Ortiz's best season statistically - the right-hander is listed at 210 pounds. Now he's listed at 222. In this Baseball Digest article from 2004, Ortiz says he feels best pitching around 225. I'm assuming he's talking about his weight, not his ERA. But to me, he looked a bit, um, unfit.

Ortiz has always put runners on base, so that shouldn't come as a surprise. He's walked roughly one batter per two innings over his nine-year major league career and has a career WHIP of 1.46, which any fantasy veteran will tell you ain't all that impressive.

Even in winning 15 games with the Braves in 2004, Ortiz's WHIP exceeded 1.50. We're talking Daniel Cabrera territory here. Fantasy owners, even those desperate for wins, will want to stay far, far away.

So why did the Orioles want this guy? Well, his relationship with Leo Mazzone, for one. Ortiz enjoyed two of his best years in 2003 and 2004 with the Braves under Mazzone's tutelage, and the O's are hoping he can recapture some of that magic. It might take some time, but at a cost of roughly $200,000, it's an inexpensive gamble.

Another reason - flexibility. Loewen, who was sent to Triple-A last week to make room for Ortiz, is a big part of the O's future, but he needs more seasoning. You can argue that he could get that pitching every fifth day for the Orioles, but he's better off at Ottawa for a few months. He'll be back soon enough, I'm certain.

In the meantime, the O's are free to entertain trade offers for would-be free agents Rodrigo Lopez and Bruce Chen, or even for Ortiz if he gets his act together. It's not a stretch to think the newest Oriole could be the newest Cardinal, Giant or Yankee in a month's time.

All three teams reportedly expressed interest in Ortiz after he was let go last month, further proof that truth is sometimes stranger than fantasy.

This week's matchups

  • Today - O's (Bedard-L) at White Sox (Freddy Garcia-R), 7:05 p.m.
  • Tuesday - O's (Lopez-R) at White Sox (Jose Contreras-R), 4:05 p.m.
  • Wednesday - O's (Cabrera-R) at White Sox (Jon Garland-R), 8:05 p.m.
  • Thursday - O's (Ortiz-R) at White Sox (Javier Vazquez-R), 8:05 p.m.
  • Friday - O's (Benson-R) at Indians (C.C. Sabathia-L), 7:05 p.m.
  • Saturday - O's (Bedard) at Indians (Jeremy Sowers-L), 7:05 p.m.
  • Sunday - O's (Lopez) at Indians (Jake Westbrook-R), 1:05 p.m.
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