No. 5 starter needed due to delayed opener Rhodes, rookie Johnson could get the call Sunday


Though Mike Mussina's sore right elbow may be indicative of nothing more than a halting start, the Orioles are unsure if their scratched Opening Day starter will be down for days or weeks. Thanks to yesterday's postponed opener, Mussina's absence could be felt as soon as Sunday against the Texas Rangers.

If Mussina is unable to appear, the fifth spot in the rotation will likely be thrown open between Mike Johnson or Arthur Rhodes. The role takes on immediate significance given the Orioles' early schedule: They receive only one day off until April 28, necessitating the fifth starter take four turns.

Mussina, who has made 68 starts covering 465 innings the last two seasons, received treatment yesterday for what is believed to be a bone spur. Initially hopeful Mussina would be bumped from only one start, general manager Pat Gillick conceded "we really don't know." The club says the condition should respond to treatment in the next three to 10 days.

"Sometimes things happen unexpectedly, and this is one of those cases, and you have to change the game plan a little bit and be ready for the next time," said Mussina.

Royals reaction

The Kansas City Royals initially were suspicious yesterday that the early decision to postpone the opener might be an attempt by the Orioles to buy time for injured center fielder Brady Anderson and starting pitcher Jimmy Key (who had moved up in the rotation to replace Mussina). But manager Bob Boone said last night he was satisfied there was no attempt to gain a competitive advantage.

"I talked to Davey [Johnson] and I'm satisfied that there were no baseball shenanigans. The only thing I was worried about was that it was going to screw up my pitching. I have to find another pitcher for Sunday. But Davey essentially is in the same situation, since he won't be able to bring Key back, either."

Still, after the weather improved markedly throughout the day, the Royals were left to wonder why the Orioles were so quick to announce the postponement.

"I'd say the word to describe it was disappointed," Boone said. "I've been through 24 Opening Days and it's kind of sacred to me."

Around the horn

No changes are planned for today's pre-game activities. Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright is still scheduled to throw out the first ball. Both teams plan to stay with their initial lineups. Given DH Pete Incaviglia's pulled left hamstring, the Orioles are revisiting their pursuit of Philadelphia Phillies first baseman-outfielder Darren Daulton. Tuesday's "blowout" marks only the third time an Orioles home opener has been postponed. Last year's game against the Royals was rained out. The only other washout occurred in 1972.

Pub Date: 4/02/97

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