Oates starting to like idea of having Mills in rotation But manager won't say it's permanent


TORONTO -- Alan Mills apparently has won a permanent place in the Orioles' starting rotation, though manager Johnny TC Oates is being careful not to paint himself into a corner on the issue.

"I like it," he said. "I'm not going to say he's a permanent member of the rotation, because there is nothing that is permanent around here. For right now, he's starting."

Mills pitched five scoreless innings in Tuesday night's victory over Toronto. He has done well in his two starts, giving the club a strong No. 5 starter for the first time this year.

"We've got four young guys who throw hard enough to get away with a mistake," Oates said. "You can't help but be excited about the future when you can say that."

Mills, 25, doesn't have a lot to say about his new role, except he will play any role the club needs him to play. He has been very effective in relief -- as evidenced by his league-leading seven relief victories -- and he has shown that he can make the transition from the bullpen to the rotation and back again if necessary.

He'll still pitch out of the bullpen, since the club will need a fifth starter only a handful of times during the next several weeks, but he appears to have carved out a place in the rotation for the foreseeable future.

If there is any question about his qualifications, they would center on his pitching repertoire, but Oates sees no problem.

"He's doing fine right now," Oates said. "He is basically a three-pitch pitcher, but we have a couple of guys like that and they are doing all right."

Flanagan on the rebound

It may have looked like age was catching up with Mike Flanagan a couple of months ago, but he has recovered to put together eight consecutive scoreless appearances.

"He's throwing the ball decent now," Oates said. "He's got some velocity back on his fastball. I'm very happy with the way he's throwing now, which is quite in contrast with the way he was doing before.

"He kept working out in the bullpen and then one day he came to me and said that he had found it."

Flanagan had been waiting all year to get back in the pitching groove that made him one of baseball's top left-handed relievers last year. During the past six weeks, he has reduced his ERA from double figures to 6.30.

Brady on the run

Brady Anderson has stolen 40 bases and appears to be on the run a lot lately, but Oates said he does not have carte blanche to run whenever he wants.

"We have ballgames where he can and ballgames where he can't," Oates said. "It depends on the game and the pitcher and the catcher."

Raves for Pennington

Minor-league prospect Brad Pennington might get a chance to pitch in the major leagues in September, if the reviews coming out of the Orioles organization are any indication.

"I've been told he could help us right now," Oates said. "[Rochester Red Wings manager] Jerry Narron told me that and he has been right on about that kind of thing all year."

Raves for Melvin

Oates said yesterday that the club owes a lot of credit for its success to assistant general manager Doug Melvin, who has been able to fill some holes despite the team's questionable minor-league depth.

"Doug has done a great job of bringing people in here who could help us," Oates said. "Look at Chito Martinez, Pat Clements, Todd Frohwirth, Mark Parent and Alan Mills. Most were brought in to supplement our Triple-A club, but we ended up using them."

What a relief

The bullpen's combined ERA (2.71) is the lowest in the American League, thanks to a five-game span in which relievers worked 15 1/3 scoreless innings.

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