Benitez being sent to Fla. for rehabilitation Club upset with pitcher's work habits, conditioning; Notebook


DETROIT -- Upset with Armando Benitez's work habits, the Orioles are exiling the right-handed reliever to Florida to continue with rehabilitation from a strained forearm.

Benitez, who went on the disabled list April 20 and then suffered a setback in early May, will be told to report to the Orioles' minor-league facility in Sarasota.

Said Orioles assistant general manager Kevin Malone, "We didn't feel like Armando is getting enough work up here, so we're sending him someplace where he can work on rehabbing his arm and getting himself into better physical condition."

Malone was asked if Benitez's physical condition is deteriorating. "Have you been paying attention?" Malone replied; he said he does not know exactly how much weight Benitez has gained.

"He's heavy and we don't feel like his work habits are what they should be," Malone said. "We think he'll focus better when he's away from the major-league atmosphere."

Benitez, who has been traveling with the team while it has been on the road, was unavailable for comment before last night's game.

Dobson cracks the whip

When Orioles starter David Wells faded in the sixth inning Monday, the thought crossed the mind of pitching coach Pat Dobson that Wells' conditioning -- which may have been affected by his layoff in May after he suffered from bursitis -- caused him to fall apart so quickly.

So yesterday, Dobson went back to directly overseeing the pitchers' running program, taking them to the outfield to have them sprint en masse. "I'm going to do it the way I want to do it, so I can monitor everything," Dobson said.

Since the end of spring training, the pitchers had been given some latitude about when they could run.

Slump is concern

Roberto Alomar and Rafael Palmeiro huddled with manager Davey Johnson for about 15 minutes yesterday to discuss the team and its current slump. In general, Palmeiro said, "We were talking about how things are going."

Palmeiro heard the news earlier in the day that he's moved up in the All-Star voting, to fifth place overall. "It really doesn't matter," said Palmeiro, "but it was nice to see some improvement. It's nice to see people are going out and voting. But it's not something that I worry about. I'm more concerned about how this team is playing."

Bonilla comes around

Bobby Bonilla's average is rising, and fast. Last night, he extended his hitting streak to nine games, during which he's batted .515 (17-for-33) with a homer, three doubles and nine RBIs.

"Bobby Bonilla is really helping us," Palmeiro said. "I said all along that he would come back and get back to hitting the way he usually does."

To Bonilla, it's no coincidence that he started hitting as soon as he moved from designated hitter to right field. "I'm loving it," Bonilla said. "I'm playing. That, to me, is playing. I can't categorize the other [designated hitter]. I can't define it. I don't know what that is. It's not baseball.

L "I'm in my normal surroundings, so I feel at home in there."

Pitchers can hit, too

Palmeiro hit three balls on top of Tiger Stadium's right-field roof in early batting practice yesterday, an amazing feat that pitcher Arthur Rhodes promptly minimized.

Rhodes, taking batting practice along with Mike Mussina and Alan Mills, hit two balls on the roof. Mills hit one ball off the facing of the second deck, and Mussina, who showed little power when he took batting practice Monday, hit three balls out, including one into the second deck. "It's Detroit," Mussina said. "Everybody can hit one in the upper deck once in a while.

"My hitting was better today. I think if maybe I started in A-ball, I'd be OK. We haven't started having any breaking balls yet."

Around the horn

Mad about a 2-2 pitch that was called a ball, Orioles pitcher

Wells flipped the ball about 10 feet in the air in frustration. Kimera Bartee, the hitter, who played in Double-A last year, said that at that moment, "That's when I knew I had him." Bartee singled home the first run in Detroit's eventual 8-3 victory. . . . The Orioles signed their 20th-round draft pick, Ashanti Davison, a center fielder from St. Mary's High in Stockton, Calif. They've signed nine of their 47 selections and are in the midst of serious talks with their first pick in the draft, pitcher Brian Falkenborg. Daren Hooper, the Orioles' third-round pick and second pick, said he reached an agreement with the team yesterday morning, for a bonus of $75,000 and a college package that will provide for his education. Hooper, 19, played football and no baseball for the University of Arizona last season. The Orioles have Hooper, 6 feet 1 and 230 pounds, projected as a power-hitting corner outfielder, although he said last night he'd be willing to slim down a little and play center field. "I'm very excited," Hooper said. "I'm going to Sarasota [Fla.] next Tuesday."

With B.J. Surhoff hobbling at third base Monday and Bill Ripken "at only 85 percent," according to Orioles manager Davey Johnson, seldom-used Manny Alexander started at third last night. . . . Mark Smith went 4-for-5 in his first game back with Triple-A Rochester on Monday night. . . . Jeff Huson, coming back from arthroscopic surgery on his knee, ran sprints yesterday for the first time. He hopes to begin a minor-league rehab assignment sometime next week. . . . Mussina scoffed at the suggestion that his performance may be related in some way to the club's decision to wait until after the season before discussing a contract extension. "No," he said. "I would hope it's not a factor, one way or the other."

Pub Date: 6/12/96

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