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After Myers, O's still have many questions

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Orioles manager Davey Johnson had talked about the idea of using a bullpen by committee, a system he had run successfully in Cincinnati. But in the end, club officials convinced Johnson he simply would not have the bullpen depth with the Orioles that he had enjoyed in Cincinnati.

In Cincinnati, he had solid pitchers such as Jeff Brantley, Mike Jackson and Hector Carrasco; here he had only Jesse Orosco and a lot of question marks.

So, the Orioles decided to sign an established closer -- Randy Myers, who agreed to a two-year, $6.3 million deal yesterday.

"He should take the pressure off the rest of the bullpen," said Orioles farm director Syd Thrift, who was given much of the credit for signing Myers by general manager Pat Gillick.

Beyond Myers and Orosco, the Orioles have a lot of bullpen candidates without knowing for sure who will play what role. Armando Benitez, the closer of the future a year ago before failing badly, likely will be brought along slowly.

Alan Mills was used heavily in the first six weeks of the season, was sent to the minors and came down with arm problems that required surgery. Gillick said yesterday, however, that he understands Mills is throwing well during winter workouts. Terry Clark pitched effectively for two months last summer and then floundered with irregular work; some in the organization believe he's better suited as a long reliever.

Gillick probably will sign another right-handed reliever. "Someone who can throw a lot and eat up innings," Gillick said last night.

Someone like free agent Roger McDowell, whose agent is negotiating with the Orioles. Gillick and Johnson have interest in free-agent right-hander Mike Jackson, but Gillick says those talks aren't going well.

Arthur Rhodes, coming back from shoulder surgery, won't be ready by the beginning of spring training, and the recommendation from some members of Phil Regan's staff is that Rhodes be left in the bullpen when he is healthy. Rhodes had a 4.88 ERA last year as a reliever, more than two runs less than his ERA as a starter (7.16).

O's pitching

Rotation

1. Mike Mussina

2. LHP (To be named)

*3. RHP (To be named)

4. Scott Erickson

5. Jimmy Haynes/Rick Krivda

* The Orioles have Ben McDonald on their roster, but will want him to accept a major reduction in his $4.5 million salary. If he won't, they'll strongly consider not tendering him a contract by the Dec. 20 deadline.

Bullpen

Closer: Randy Myers

LH setup: Jesse Orosco

RH setup: To be named. Candidates: Armando Benitez, Alan Mills, a free-agent signing like Roger McDowell.

RH middle and long relief: To be named. Candidates: Armando Benitez, Alan Mills, Terry Clark.

C7 LH middle and long relief: Arthur Rhodes, Mark Lee.

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