Biagini thinks Mussina will stick for good


COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Rochester Red Wings manager Greg Biagini thinks Mike Mussina has pitched his last game in the minor leagues.

Biagini said Mussina's next few steps will be up the ladder in the Orioles' starting rotation.

"I don't expect to see Mike anymore," Biagini said last night, after Mussina, Stacy Jones and Jim Poole were promoted from Triple A Rochester to take Orioles roster spots vacated by Jeff Ballard, Paul Kilgus and Jeff Robinson. "I think he has done everything he can do in the minor leagues.

"In time I think Mike will be a No. 1 or No. 2 starter in the big leagues. He has a quality arm and knows how to pitch."

Mussina, the Orioles' first-round draft pick in 1990 out of Stanford University, dominated the International League. He ranked first in victories (10), and was second in earned run average (2.87) and strikeouts (107).

His most recent start, a 6-0 complete-game shutout over Columbus Monday, was perhaps his finest performance this season.

Mussina retired the first nine men he faced, five by strikeout. He didn't allow a walk and gave up five hits. His major-league debut is scheduled to come against Chicago on Sunday.

"I'm trying to keep it cool and low-key, but I'm still as excited as you can be," said Mussina, a righthander. "I'm 22 years old and I've only been in pro ball for a little more than a year. This has happened pretty quickly.

"I called my mom and she's more excited than I am. She wants to know if she can go to Chicago. To be honest, I don't think this has totally hit me yet."

The Orioles clubhouse won't be foreign territory because Mussina spent four weeks at major-league camp during spring training.

Hall of Famer Jim Palmer, who was attempting to make a comeback, made a big impression on Mussina.

"The biggest thing was I got to play with Jim Palmer," Mussina said. "He told me some stories and situations that helped. He gave me encouragement by telling me my stuff was good enough for the big leagues. That was a lift hearing that from him."

Rochester pitching coach Dick Bosman said Mussina is receptive to coaching and is beginning to prove he can pitch into the late innings.

"Mike is blessed with a lot of talent, above average major-league talent," Bosman said. "He goes after hitters. He doesn't give up many hits or walks. You have to earn your way on against him. Mike is aggressive."

Mussina proved he was a man on a mission in college, earning an economics degree in 3 1/2 years.

Poole, a lefthander, was signed by the Red Wings as a free agent on May 31 after being put on waivers by the Texas Rangers. He was tied for fifth in the IL in saves with nine and was 3-2 with a 2.79 ERA.

The most impressive statistic is that Poole walked only nine men in 29 innings and allowed only one home run.

"Poole is really tough against lefthanded hitters," Bosman said. "He has a great breaking ball. Right now he's getting his feet on the ground pitching to righthanders."

Jones, a 6-foot-6 righthander, was 4-2 with a 2.36 ERA and seven saves for the Red Wings. He also displayed fine control, walking only 15 in 42 innings. He was Gregg Olson's roommate at Auburn University.

"Jones is a bulldog," Bosman said. "In fact, Jones and Poole are both bulldogs. They have great control and want the ball when the game is on the line. They have that eye of the tiger. They're guys who you want to go to war with."

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