Sutcliffe will pitch, then leave for mother's funeral


Orioles pitcher Rick Sutcliffe returned to his family's home in Kansas City, Mo., on Sunday night after learning that his mother had died, manager Johnny Oates announced last night.

But Oates said that Sutcliffe told him by telephone yesterday that he planned on returning to Baltimore today and pitching tonight against the California Angels before flying to the Midwest to complete the funeral arrangements.

When he called Sutcliffe to send his condolences, Oates wasn't counting on the veteran right-hander to make his regular start. "I told him that I had a starting pitcher and he said, 'Yeah, it's me, I'm pitching,' " Oates said.

Oates was uncertain about the cause of her death, but a club spokesman said later that Sutcliffe's mother, Louise Bloss, 55, died of cancer. Oates said she had been ill when he talked to the then free-agent pitcher last off-season.

Oates said the viewing was scheduled for tomorrow, and the funeral for Thursday. Sutcliffe will likely rejoin the team again in Seattle on Friday, when the Orioles open a nine-game West Coast trip.

Sutcliffe, after not winning a game in July, has pitched well in his past four starts. He is 2-0 with a 2.24 ERA during that stretch and will take a 12-11 record into tonight's game.

Asked if he expected Sutcliffe to be in the right frame of mind to pitch tonight, Oates said, "Knowing him, if he's got it, he'll give it to us."

Pitcher Anthony Telford joined the Orioles yesterday for the third time in three years, after posting an 11-7 record at Rochester. The right-hander was fourth in the International League with 125 strikeouts, or, as he calls them, "punchouts."

Oates indicated Telford will serve in long relief for now, possibly becoming the fifth starter next month.

"You don't need a fifth starter until Sept. 1," Oates said. "It's possible we'd need a fifth starter three times."

Telford, 26, pitched in eight games for the Orioles in 1990 and in nine last year. He underwent shoulder surgery in 1989.

"I think I made strides this year at Rochester," Telford said. "It takes a while to come back after surgery, and now my fastball is as high as 89 miles an hour."

A familiar ride

Dark humor marked the California Angels' bus ride from New York to Baltimore on Sunday night, three months after one of their buses crashed into a grove of trees off the New Jersey Turnpike.

Manager Buck Rodgers, sitting in the right front seat, was hurt the worst, suffering a broken right elbow and left knee. He hopes to rejoin the team Friday at Anaheim Stadium.

When it was announced to the team what time the bus would leave Sunday, someone shouted, "Wear helmets and flak jackets."

The players, as a joke, put a rag dummy of Rodgers stuffed with newspapers and wearing an Angels cap in the otherwise empty front right seat.

It was around twilight when the buses passed the accident site. Observing the trees that had been knocked down, the players clapped and cheered at the realization that this time they had made it without mishap.

Some players dozed, fitfully. When the driver hit the brakes or the bus lurched, there were cries of "Hey, hey."

Bullpen catcher Rick Turner, in particular, was edgy during the trip. Small wonder. He suffered a 30-stitch laceration in his right side in the May 21 accident.

Closing in

When Brady Anderson drove in his 70th run Sunday, it left him 15 shy of Harvey Kuenn's major-league record for most RBI by a leadoff hitter. Kuenn had 64 of his 85 at this point.

No. 19 on deck

John Unitas will throw out the first ball at "NFL Night" tonight.

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