LAKELAND, Fla. -- The first cuts weren't the deepest, but the Orioles did trim six players from the club yesterday, including one of the original candidates for the fifth spot in the starting rotation.
Left-hander John O'Donoghue was optioned to the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings along with right-handers Mike Oquist and Jeff Williams and first baseman Paul Carey. The Orioles also assigned non-roster pitcher Todd Stephan to minor-league camp with the Red Wings and non-roster infielder T. R. Lewis to the Double-A Bowie Baysox.
O'Donoghue had been expected to compete for a place in manager Johnny Oates' rotation, but his candidacy ran into trouble early on when he was held back by a severe case of the flu. He made two exhibition appearances, including a one- inning outing Tuesday in which he gave up two unearned runs.
"He just needs to pitch," Oates said. "You don't want him to be the fifth starter when we're only going to use a fifth starter two times in April. If we need a [full-time] starter, we'll consider him, but he has to pitch."
His name surfaced as a fifth-starter candidate a few weeks before the November expansion draft. The Orioles were high enough on him to put him on their 15-man protected list, and that may have led to the assumption that the club considered him to be ready for prime time.
It is not out of the question that O'Donoghue could come up during the season, but it was going to be difficult for Oates to find him enough exhibition innings with the number of more experienced pitchers in camp.
The fifth-starter derby may have become a two-horse race anyway. Right-hander Mark Williamson hasn't been scored upon in nine innings of Grapefruit League action and left-hander Fernando Valenzuela has opened some eyes with his first two appearances.
The other candidates have not asserted themselves. Right-hander Mike Cook has pitched decently in four appearances, but he hasn't been extended. Anthony Telford is 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA in three appearances. Steve Searcy and Wayne Edwards are pitching well, but they are working in relief. Left-hander Jamie Moyer has given up three runs on eight hits in four innings.
None of the other player moves was particularly surprising. Carey was ticketed for Rochester from the
beginning. So were Oquist and Williams. Lewis made a good impression with three hits in seven pinch-hit at-bats and Stephan retired all six batters he faced in two innings, but they were not competing for a place on the major-league roster.
The cuts leave the Orioles with 40 players in camp, including nine non-roster invitees.
Valenzuela's first start
Valenzuela will make his first Orioles start tomorrow against the Philadelphia Phillies at Jack Russell Stadium in Clearwater.
Valenzuela is scheduled to throw about 50 pitches, 10 more than he threw in his three-inning appearance on Monday.
To make room in the rotation, right-hander Ben McDonald will pitch in a camp game at Twin Lakes Park tomorrow. Alan Mills also will pitch in Sarasota that day.
Reynolds picks up pace
Second baseman Harold Reynolds got off to a slow start at the plate this spring, but he picked up the pace considerably yesterday with a three-hit, four-RBI performance.
Reynolds entered the game with a .158 Grapefruit League average and had not driven in a run since he had four RBI in the Orioles' first intrasquad game of the spring.
"He had not been swinging the bat well," Oates said. "It was good to see him get some hits today."