CLEVELAND -- Manager Johnny Oates went against his instincts when he allowed starter Mike Mussina to throw 138 pitches in his most recent start, so don't look for the same thing to happen when the young righthander takes the mound today against the Cleveland Indians.
Mussina was allowed to extend himself Friday in Detroit because the Orioles had a big lead and because he was going for his first major-league shutout. If the score had been 6-1 instead of 6-0, he would not have taken the mound for the ninth inning.
"I just don't like guys throwing that many pitches," Oates said yesterday. "I don't have any medical proof that it hurts a pitcher to throw that many. It's just a feeling. I don't think it can be beneficial for a pitcher to throw 135 pitches on a regular basis."
Orioles pitchers have gone past 120 pitches only a handful of times this year. Oates was hesitant to allow Mussina to do it so soon after he missed a start because of illness, but he didn't want to deny him the chance to complete the shutout.
"I can't sacrifice the success of the team for an individual accomplishment," Oates said, "but I realize there are certain things that players play for, and you allow them to if you can. I had a situation when Cal [Ripken] had his hitting streak where I put the hit-and-run on during his last at-bat, then decided to take it off because I didn't want to take the bat out of his hands. We were ahead. I didn't think it would affect the team, so I wanted to give him every opportunity to keep it going."
Mussina apparently experienced no ill effects from the extended outing. Pitching coach Dick Bosman questioned him the following day to make sure he had no unusual soreness. He threw well in his in-between workout. But Oates will monitor him closely today when he faces Charles Nagy (8-3) in the series finale.
"I'll be watching him," Oates said. "We're in uncharted water."
Oates is conservative when it comes to the health and well-being of his pitching staff. He monitors the pitching schedules carefully, keeping track of the number of pitches thrown by each pitcher in each game. He obviously is not inflexible, but he won't apologize for being overprotective.
* FRANK TALK: Orioles assistant GM Frank Robinson took No. 1 draft choice Jeffrey Hammonds aside for a little private conversation before yesterday's exhibition game between Team USA and the Nicaraguan National Team at Cleveland Stadium. But he didn't get away without an admonition from Team USA coach Ron Fraser.
"Hey Frank," Fraser said, "just be sure you bring him back in the same uniform."
In the game, Nicaragua scored six early runs off Stanford righthander Rick Helling and handed the U.S. team its first exhibition loss, 7-1.