Insinuation fails to doctor result of Bones' performance

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Ricky Bones tantalized the Orioles all afternoon with a sinker here and a curveball over there. What the Milwaukee Brewers' newfound ace lacked in sheer velocity, he made up for with unyielding location.

And when a 7-0 Milwaukee victory was complete, there were any number of descriptions for Bones' 7 1/3 innings of two-hit pitching.

"Masterful," was what Brewers manager Phil Garner called it.

"Lucky," was how Bones saw it.

Then there was Orioles manager Phil Regan, who saw red when he saw scuff marks on a series of balls that went out of play.

It was an allegation Bones and the Brewers adamantly denied, Regan's evidence notwithstanding.

"Oh, please," Milwaukee catcher Joe Oliver said with a groan when told Regan had corralled eight balls with damning scuff marks. "There was no scuffing going on."

In the second week of the season, Bones was pitching ahead of the game. He took a one-hitter into the eighth. When he walked Kevin Bass and gave up a single to Brady Anderson, he gave way to Graeme Lloyd, who retired the last five hitters.

"I pitched winter ball, so I came to spring training almost ready," Bones said.

He threw 104 pitches, or 21 more than last week's no-decision on Opening Day. Whatever mistakes he made turned out to be catchable for the Brewers. In the fourth inning, Rafael Palmeiro drove a Bones curveball to the base of the right-field scoreboard, where Matt Mieske was camped out. No damage there.

In the seventh, Harold Baines hammered a 3-2 changeup toward the left-field seats, but outfielder David Hulse pulled it back with a nifty catch above the wall. Just a long fly ball.

"I was lucky," Bones, 26, said after halting a personal five-game losing streak against the Orioles. "I made some pretty good pitches and got a lot of ground balls when I needed them.

"I was trying to move the ball on the corners, trying to get ground balls."

Garner agreed -- but only to a point. There was little to compromise Bones' dominating effort.

"He threw every pitch where he wanted to, until the last two batters he faced," Garner said. "It was a masterful job. He made quality pitches when he needed to."

For the Orioles, it was a stunning comedown after a blissful series in Minnesota. In four games against Twins pitching, the Orioles erupted for 32 runs, nine homers and a .301 average.

Yesterday all they could manage were two harmless singles by Chris Hoiles (in the fifth) and Anderson.

"It's early, no big deal," Palmeiro said. "It's just one game. . . . We're still a great team."

The question of the day then was, did Bones help himself by doctoring the ball?

"I wasn't doing anything," he said. "I didn't scuff the ball."

For the most part, the Orioles preferred to credit Bones, not discredit him. Scuffballs were not used like a crutch in the Orioles' clubhouse.

"To me, he was throwing like he can when he's pitching like that," Anderson said. "I wasn't paying attention to that [scuffballs]."

Said Palmeiro: "I didn't see him doing anything. His ball moves anyway."

It was left for Andy Van Slyke to pin a perspective on the Orioles' dreary debut at Camden Yards.

"He pitched well," Van Slyke said of Bones, "scuffed or unscuffed."

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