Rotation weathers changeups If Erickson is held out, Boskie may pitch tonight


KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Despite a rash of early-season inconveniences, the Orioles remain confident their starting rotation will eventually achieve a routine. However, that time likely won't happen until next week at the earliest.

A poor weather forecast for tonight's game represents the latest potential setback. Followed by a slight groin muscle pull, scheduled starter Scott Erickson will likely be scratched if the game is played. A 90 percent chance of rain, sleet and/or snow has made manager Davey Johnson and pitching coach Ray Miller wary of risking the right-hander on an unsound mound.

"I don't know if I want him pitching off a wet mound," said Johnson.

Erickson's absence would make way for Shawn Boskie, who for the moment is projected to start Saturday against Texas. However, Boskie would be appearing on normal rest if inserted for Erickson tonight.

"Scott's such a competitive guy, I don't think he would want to miss, but I think it's something we have to consider. I don't know what's going to happen with the weather, but it doesn't make any sense to take chances," Miller said.

After sustaining the pull in his final spring appearance, Erickson pitched ably in his first start, a six-inning win April 4 over the Rangers in which he allowed four first-inning runs and nothing afterward. Erickson has since continued to receive treatment for the groin injury and wears a wrap daily. At present, the condition isn't threatening.

If he is bypassed tonight, Erickson could pitch Saturday or miss a start entirely.

If Erickson's start is pushed back, he would be the third starter whose schedule has been altered since March 31. Rocky Coppinger is eligible to leave the disabled list April 15; Mike Mussina is scheduled to make his second start tomorrow after being pushed back from his Opening Day assignment.

So much for scouting

Royals manager Bob Boone would like to have the pitch back that Jeffrey Hammonds banged off the wall for a two-run double in the 11th inning. Reliever Brian Bevil threw a fastball high -- and likely out of the strike zone -- and Hammonds came within about a foot of clearing the left-field wall.

"The one thing we know about Hammonds is that he's a high fastball hitter," Boone said. "That's where he hit all of his home runs in spring training. I think Brian just got a little too pumped up."

Ripken hit streak goes on

Third baseman Cal Ripken has hit safely in every game this season, though he had to wait until the ninth inning to get his first of two singles last night. He finished 2-for-5 and is batting .467.

Attendance gap

The announced attendance at snowy Kauffman Stadium last night was 12,036, but the actual crowd appeared to be about 2,500, and there couldn't have been more than few hundred when the game ended in the 11th inning.

Coppinger on the mend

After a productive side session Tuesday afternoon, Coppinger will throw again today, weather permitting. The session would be the first in which Coppinger throws with maximum effort. The Orioles remain unsure whether he will require a rehabilitation assignment before rejoining the team.

"I really haven't cut it loose yet, but I feel fine," Coppinger said. "Without cutting it loose, I'm probably throwing harder now than when I was trying to cut it loose with my shoulder hurting."

Coppinger concedes he initially chose not to tell the club of his discomfort for fear of his standing.

Coppinger said a conversation last weekend in Texas with general manager Pat Gillick eased his concerns. Barring a setback, Coppinger would pitch in a simulated game in the next several days.

Around the horn

For the first time since Brady Anderson was injured during a March 23 exhibition, Johnson expressed optimism about his designated hitter's return to center field. Anderson's return to the outfield would allow Pete Incaviglia to receive his first at-bats of the season. Incaviglia has hit 80 of his 201 career home runs in April and May. Though Johnson returned Roberto Alomar to the starting lineup last night, he emphasized that his sore left ankle still merits attention. Alomar said he remains "less than 100 percent."

Pub Date: 4/10/97

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