Oates savors Pennington save Rookie, Poole sharp despite time off


Brad Pennington's first major-league save almost was lost in the excitement of Monday night's comeback victory, but manager Johnny Oates still was buzzing about it yesterday.

"It was exciting to me," Oates said, "and not only Brad but both left- handers. Jimmy Poole came in and did a great job."

Poole and Pennington had been more than a week between relief appearances, but both looked sharp. Poole came on in the seventh inning to get a big double-play ball. Pennington came on lTC with one out in the ninth to retire Mike Greenwell and Mo Vaughn for the save.

"I was pleased with the way that Brad was able to throw a strike on the first pitch," Oates said, "but I was even more pleased at the look on Greenwell's face after he saw it.

"If he can do that after eight days, then he can do it every other day."

Oates apparently has no problem with putting Pennington into big game situations, even though the rookie left-hander was pitching at the Single-A level a year ago.

"If we were in September and we were tied for first, I might think about it a little bit more," Oates said, "but he's got plenty of time to get some experience. It's a good time. And I'll tell you this. Brad is not afraid."

Pennington has appeared in six games and has given up one run on four hits in 4 1/3 innings. Poole has appeared in seven games this year and has yet to allow a run.

Devereaux works out

Injured center fielder Mike Devereaux ran in the outfield yesterday and picked up a ball for the first time since he suffered a separated breastbone 10 days ago. He reported no pain, but the timetable for his return remains unchanged.

"He's doing everything but swinging the bat, but it'll be three weeks before he is able to do that," Oates said. "They said four to five weeks and that's probably what it's going to be."

Baines still resting

Designated hitter Harold Baines continues to recuperate from the rib cage sprain he suffered last week. According to Oates, the earliest he

could start swinging a bat is Monday.

"We don't want him testing it and re-injuring it," Oates said.

Valenzuela tonight

Left-hander Fernando Valenzuela takes the next step in his major-league comeback tonight when he faces Danny Darwin in the final game of the three-game series.

Valenzuela still is looking for his first victory since 1990, but he has pitched well enough to win in each of his last two starts. He has been particularly sharp since the three-run first inning in his May 1 start against Kansas City, giving up two runs on seven hits in his last 14 innings.

"He's getting a little bit stronger each time out," Oates said. "He's getting a little more fluid and a little more composed. If he continues to get better, that's going to be great."

Valenzuela has gotten the worst run support of any regular Orioles starter. The club has scored nine runs in his four starts (2.25 per game). Arthur Rhodes has gotten the best support -- an average of 5.3 runs per start.

Team meeting revisited

The Orioles haven't been blown out of a game since the day after their two-hour team meeting in Chicago. They entered last night's game with eight victories in 12 games since the 9-4 loss to the White Sox that dropped the club eight games under .500.

"I don't like meetings," Oates said, "but I'm definitely not sorry I called it."

The no-longer-mild-mannered Oates said yesterday that he has been a little tougher on the club since then.

"Look at the first two weeks of the season," he said. "I think that warranted it. I can do that [get tough] when I have to. Just ask my kids."

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