Mike Mussina took a significant step yesterday toward making Sunday's start against the Texas Rangers. Three days after being bumped from his Opening Day turn due to inflammation in his right elbow, Mussina threw freely for about 10 minutes from the bullpen mound. His only restriction was a prohibition on breaking pitches.
"He looked pretty good," said pitching coach Ray Miller. "He moved it around real well without any discomfort."
The absence of breaking pitches was only precautionary, Miller said. By avoiding the additional torque, all parties hope to minimize any fluid buildup today.
Mussina, who has experienced marked improvement since Monday's decision, said he didn't throw with maximum effort but was pleased with the results.
"I've got two more days off before I've got to pitch. There's no reason to take a couple steps back if it's unnecessary," said Mussina, who may participate in long toss today but won't throw again from a mound before Sunday. "We're going to see how it comes back [today]. But I feel OK. I'm not worried about it."
Switch to MCI?
Miller was kicking himself after Royals first baseman Jeff King stole a base in the fifth inning. The bullpen phone was malfunctioning and Miller got so preoccupied with it that he failed to alert the battery that the situation was ripe for King to steal.
"We were messing with the phone and the guy stole a base on us," said Miller, who controls the Orioles' defense against the running game. "It's part of the game, but it's my fault. I shouldn't be worried about that damn phone. It was off the hook or something. They were waving. I didn't know what was going on."
Miller had a good scouting report on King's tendencies. The two of them spent eight years together in Pittsburgh before King was traded to the Royals and Miller was hired by the Orioles.
"He had been talking all game, 'I'm not going to let King steal on me,' " manager Davey Johnson said. "It ruined most of Ray's day."
Goodwin does it again
At least two Orioles can't wait for Royals center fielder Tom Goodwin to leave town.
Goodwin robbed Eric Davis of a home run on Opening Day with a leaping catch at the center-field fence. He turned the trick again in the sixth inning last night against Chris Hoiles, racing into left-center and leaping above the fence.
Goodwin did the Orioles a favor in the seventh inning when he broke too soon trying to steal third with one out and was picked off by Arthur Rhodes. The play was crucial because Bip Roberts followed with a single.
The Orioles bullpen deserves much of the credit for last night's victory, blanking the Royals over the last 4 1/3 innings.
Terry Mathews replaced starter Scott Kamieniecki in the fifth and struck out two of the four batters he faced. Rhodes threw two shutout innings to pick up the win, and Randy Myers got the save.
The timing of Ripken's contract extension apparently was not based on the new luxury tax system, which can be partially circumvented in some cases by delaying a signing past April 1.
Orioles vice chairman Joe Foss said that since the contract wasn't finished until Wednesday, the luxury tax ramifications never came into play. Under the terms of the new labor agreement, the average annual value of the extension -- plus the final year of Ripken's previous contract -- would have been applied to this year's payroll had it been completed by April 1.
Instead, it will be applied next year, when the threshold is much higher ($58.9 million) than it is in 1997 ($55 million).
"Certainly it was a consideration," Foss said Wednesday. "If we had a deal yesterday, we might have waited until today to announce it, but it wasn't done until just before the game today."
The other guys
General manager Pat Gillick was cryptic when asked if the club might be close to signing either Mussina or Brady Anderson.
"You never know," he said. "Sometimes these things come in bunches."
A club source indicated yesterday that the team will try to resume serious negotiations with the agents for the two Orioles very soon, though Mussina's agent, Arn Tellem, classified the talks as "dormant" earlier this week.
"As far as I know, we're not making any offers," said Mussina, who opposes contract negotiations during the season. "I think they know where we stand. It's not like we're at opposite ends of the spectrum."
Mills walking softly
Reliever Alan Mills is still wary of a slight groin pull he suffered Wednesday. Mills pitched to two hitters in that game's seventh inning, retiring both. However, while warming up before the inning he stumbled into a hole created by Royals pitcher Kevin Appier's digging on the front of the mound. As a precaution, Johnson ruled Mills off-duty last night.
"I went through this last year so I don't want any of this all over again," said Mills, who last year underwent August arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder after beginning the season on the disabled list because of a strained right flexor muscle.
Royals sign Van Poppel
The Royals took a chance on star-crossed prospect Todd Van Poppel, signing 1990's most highly sought amateur player to a minor-league contract. Arm problems have contributed to Van Poppel's flameout with the Oakland A's and Detroit Tigers.
Around the horn
Kelly Gruber's debut with Triple-A Rochester went well. Against Columbus yesterday, Gruber had two hits, including a home run. Kansas City's Jose Offerman was 0-for-4, stopping a 15-game hitting streak over two seasons. Major League Baseball has released a survey announcing the presence of 147 foreign-born players in the majors, or 19 percent. The Orioles have four such players -- Mike Johnson (Canada), Armando Benitez (Dominican Republic), Rafael Palmeiro (Cuba) and Roberto Alomar (Puerto Rico).
Pub Date: 4/04/97