O's move to beef up bullpen


In yesterday's editions, it was incorrectly stated that San Pedro de Macoris is in Puerto Rico. It is in the Dominican Republic.

The Sun regrets the error.

Baseball and rain generally are as harmonious a tandem as Roseanne and Tom Arnold, but last night's lengthy rain delay at Camden Yards gave Orioles manager Johnny Oates a chance to catch up on reading his mail.

The offerings were, to say the least, interesting.

There was a letter from an old friend that roughly equated life's problems with swallowing frogs. Then, there were the guys who called themselves "Slump Analyst Consultants," who offered Oates a computer program that solve slumps in 30 minutes with a 30-day guarantee.

Unfortunately, none of the letters offered any clue for stopping the rain that pelted Oriole Park and postponed last night's game with the Cleveland Indians, or more importantly for beefing up the Orioles' suddenly thinned pitching corps.

The team made a move in that direction yesterday, calling up Armando Benitez from Double-A Bowie, to provide bullpen help.

Benitez, a fastball-throwing 21-year-old right-hander from San Pedro de Macoris, Puerto Rico, whom many consider the team's closer of the future, will get his first taste of major-league life, though it likely will be brief.

"He was the logical choice with all the things he's done," said Oates. "He's been quite impressive."

In 191 professional innings spread over 3 1/2 minor-league seasons, Benitez, who filled the roster spot created when Mike Oquist was sent to Triple-A Rochester, has struck out 266 and walked only 91, producing a strikeouts-per-nine-innings-pitched ratio of 12.53.

Benitez shared the organization's pitcher of the year award last season with Garrett Stephenson, when he was 8-1 with Single-A Albany and Frederick, with a combined ERA of 1.34 and 112 strikeouts in 67 innings.

This season, with the Baysox, Benitez, who is 6 feet 4 inches and weighs 220 pounds, is 6-3 with a 3.67 ERA and 84 strikeouts in 56 1/3 innings.

"When I saw him in spring training, he was very intimidating and threw the ball pretty well," said Oates. "He's a pretty good physical specimen. He's got a pretty good fastball, a good slider and he's just wild enough."

Orioles fans would be well advised not to fall in love with Benitez, or at least not this week, for by Saturday, he almost certainly will be back in the minors.

Benitez's major-league call-up was made possible because Oquist, who started Tuesday's doubleheader nightcap, threw too many pitches -- 60 -- in his start to be available in time to help the club.

Likewise, Mark Williamson, who threw 53 pitches in relief of Oquist, likely would not be available to pitch before tomorrow.

Hence the need for Benitez, but, because of this week's doubleheader and a current string of 20 straight games without a scheduled day off, the club will need starters for Saturday's home game with Toronto and Monday's game at Minnesota.

Oates said Saturday's unnamed starter is probably not on the Orioles' roster, which would indicate a minor-league call-up or a trade.

There are a few call-up possibilities, with left-handers Arthur Rhodes or Rick Krivda at the top of the list. Rhodes is scheduled to pitch Friday at Rochester and could be held back a day to start here, but Krivda appears to be the more likely candidate.

However, the trade route also may produce a starter for Saturday, two days before players would need to clear waivers to be dealt.

The Orioles are involved in talks with the Philadelphia Phillies for left- hander Danny Jackson, who reportedly could be had for two prospects, or one top-flight prospect.

But the Orioles have been in the market for a pitcher for a while now, and there are no guarantees that they will be able to make a deal in time for Saturday.

"It's the time of year where everybody's talking," said general manager Roland Hemond. "Somebody probably will make a trade, but that doesn't mean that we will. It's a case where you try, but you can't guarantee anything. If you could guarantee something, we would announce it [a trade]."

"If it was only the Orioles involved, sure, we would [make a trade], but you have to find someone compatible on personnel and wants and needs. I don't know how optimistic to be," said Oates.

Mike Mussina (14-4, 3.02) and Jack Morris (9-6, 5.20), last night's scheduled starters, and Sid Fernandez (6-5, 5.10) and Jason Grimsley (2-1, 4.80), today's originally listed pitchers, will start today's doubleheader,


Opponent: Cleveland Indians (doubleheader)

Site: Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Time: 5:05

TV/Radio: Both games on HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)

First-game starters: Indians' Jack Morris (9-6, 5.20) vs. Orioles' Mike Mussina (14-4, 3.02)

Second-game starters: Indians' Jason Grimsley (2-1, 4.80) vs. Orioles' Sid Fernandez (6-5, 5.10)

Tickets: Several hundred scattered singles remain, not including 183 bleacher and 275 standing-room tickets that go on sale when the gates open at 4 p.m.

Note: Tickets for tonight's originally scheduled single game are good for admission to both games of the doubleheader. Tickets from last night's rained-out game can be exchanged for available dates this season or next season, or can be exchanged for a refund.

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