Capital Gazette wins special Pulitzer Prize citation for coverage of newsroom shooting that killed five

Expanded playoff proposal still long way off to players


TORONTO -- Baseball's proposed new television contract that would add another round of playoffs to the postseason drew little reaction from Orioles players yesterday.

Shortstop Cal Ripken was the only one of those polled who voiced support for the idea. The others, while curious, said they knew little about the proposal, which received little attention here in the midst of the NHL playoffs.

"Right now, that is the last thing on my mind," said manager Johnny Oates. "Right now, they could have 50 rounds [of playoffs] or none -- it makes no difference to me."

Mike Mussina, the club's representative to the players association, which must approve any change in the playoff format, said he didn't know enough about the proposal to comment. "It hardly came up [in discussions]," he said. "We'd heard some rumors about it, but it might not be as important an issue to us as some other things, like arbitration."

Added Rick Sutcliffe: "I'm sure I'll have an opinion once I've had a chance to read everything."

Ripken admittedly is a traditionalist in most baseball matters, but he said he favors expanding the playoffs. "There's no doubt that 162 games definitely determines who is the best team in the division," said Ripken. "But having played on two teams [1982, 1989] that had excellent seasons and just missed out, it would have been nice to have been rewarded."

Mussina's nifty 50

Mussina, who will take the mound against the Boston Red Sox tonight, will be trying to tie a club record with a third straight shutout, but he already has gone where no Orioles pitcher has gone before in his first 50 major-league starts.

Research by the Orioles public relations department shows that Mussina has the highest winning percentage (.703) after 50 starts of any starting pitcher in Orioles history. The next best is Storm Davis (.686). Mussina has the second-lowest ERA (2.62) during that span. The lowest was posted by Jim Hardin, who had a 2.49 mark.

Mussina also ranks highly among his contemporaries. Boston pitcher Roger Clemens had a slightly higher winning percentage (.710) but a significantly higher ERA (3.31). The same goes for Toronto right-hander Juan Guzman. Dwight Gooden and Orel Hershiser both had higher winning percentages and lower ERAs, but they didn't have a designated hitter in the opposing lineup.

The only active pitcher to match Mussina's average of 7 2/3 innings during his first 50 starts was then-Los Angeles Dodger and now-teammate Fernando Valenzuela.

No pitcher in Orioles history can match the 48 times Mussina worked through five innings in his first 50 starts, but one pitcher in an Orioles uniform has done better. Valenzuela worked through the fifth in each of his first 60 starts, a statistic that borders on the unbelievable.

Surprise invitation

Orioles bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks said he was surprised to be invited by Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston to participate in an unofficial coaching capacity for the All-Star Game at Oriole Park.

"When you're coaching, you never really expect to be picked to be in an All-Star Game or asked," Hendricks said. "It's a pleasant surprise."

Finally in a pinch

Gaston finally broke down and used a pinch hitter. When he sent Darnell Coles up to bat for Dick Schofield in the ninth inning yesterday, it was the first plate appearance by a Blue Jays pinch hitter this year.

Strangely enough, when Gaston finally made the substitution, he replaced a hitter who was 2-for-3 in the game.

End of the curse

The Orioles' victory was the first of the year on Channel 2, ending a 12-game losing streak on the local television station.

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