Rhodes' '96 exit steps up relief hunt Options 'really limited' as O's try to replace lefty


CLEVELAND -- Orioles assistant general manager Kevin Malone walked into the office of manager Davey Johnson after last night's game, shortly after they found out left-hander Arthur Rhodes is out for the year with a shoulder problem.

"Kevin, what are you doing here?" Johnson said, deadpan. "Why aren't you on the phone?"

Malone and GM Pat Gillick must find a reliever that the Orioles need. Badly. They'd prefer a lefty, but they don't feel they really have anybody in the minors ready to pitch in the big leagues. They've already tried right-handers Esteban Yan and Archie Corbin, who are at Triple-A Rochester.

Before last night's game, Johnson told reporters that if Rhodes suffered one more setback, he'd probably be out for the year and the Orioles would need a reliever.

"If you guys have any ideas," Johnson said drolly, "don't keep them to yourselves."

Acquiring a reliever or two is tough now that the trade deadline has passed. The Orioles talked earlier about the possibility of signing veteran Jack Morris, now pitching in an independent league, and have talked about signing Kirk McCaskill. They may call Detroit about John Farrell and San Diego about Denny Harriger.

"Whatever we do," said Malone, "we're looking for an upgrade over what we have. . . . I think our options are really limited."

Johnson said the lack of depth in the bullpen is why he had trouble curtailing the damage Cleveland piled on the Orioles in the eighth inning Sunday. The Indians turned a 3-2 game into a rout by scoring 11 runs against Roger McDowell and Keith Shepherd with two outs. Eventually, Johnson was forced to bring in closer Randy Myers to get the final out.

"It's embarrassing to me to have that happen," Johnson said, "and I know it's embarrassing to our fans and our ownership. It kills me -- I'm sitting here with my hands tied."

Spreading it around

Bill Ripken played for the Indians last September and watched from the bench in the postseason. Although comparing the Indians of 1996 to the 1995 vintage that went 100-44 would be tough, Ripken said, he does notice Cleveland is using more players -- Jeromy Burnitz, Brian Giles, and others.

"They're getting more contributions from more people," he said, "and that should help them. They're not just throwing the same nine guys out there every day. If somebody goes down in the postseason, they can handle that."

Ripken says Julio Franco, currently sidelined by hamstring problems, is going to be a pivotal player for the Indians.

"If he can get healthy," Ripken said, "and stay that way through the postseason, he'll be a big plus for them. He's a big, big key. They're going to need him healthy in the playoffs."

Doing the waive

The Orioles should find out today whether outfielder Luis Polonia cleared waivers. The Oakland Athletics may have interest in claiming him. Infielder Jeff Huson may clear tomorrow. The Orioles designated both players for assignment last Friday and have 10 days to release or trade them if they're not claimed off waivers.

Around the horn

Armando Benitez, coming back from elbow problems, threw for 12 minutes off a mound yesterday, and Johnson says he may be ready the beginning of September. . . . Johnson was asked if the Orioles are still considering adding a pitching consultant, such as George Bamberger or Moe Drabowsky. "We've got [Mike] Flanagan and [Jim] Palmer here," said Johnson. "We think about everything trying to improve, but it generally comes down to execution and personnel." . . . Bill Ripken concurred with Johnson's assessment that Eddie Murray has lent a positive presence to the Orioles. "And on the selfish side," Ripken said, "I'd like to be in the same uniform when he hits his 500th." . . . Murray hit his 543rd career double, putting him 13th on the major-league list. . . . Bobby Bonilla has homered in three straight games for the first time since 1993. . . . The report on Jimmy Haynes' first start at Triple-A was so-so. He pitched well in spurts, Johnson said, but had control problems. . . . Mark Smith is eligible to come off the disabled list tomorrow, but his left leg, bruised from a foul ball, hasn't improved to the point where he's ready to be activated. "I'm running," Smith said, "but I'm running with a limp." . . . Malone's 39th birthday is today, and he requested the news be relayed through this medium. . . . Tonight the Orioles will face former Oriole Ben McDonald. So far this year, they are 0-4 against former Orioles, having lost to Jamie Moyer twice, McDonald and Bob Milacki once each.

Pub Date: 8/06/96

Copyright © 2021, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad