Rain puts damper on Orioles' spirits Washout pushes starters back again; status of injured Mills uncertain


An afternoon of rain brought different reactions from the Orioles and Texas Rangers yesterday. Washed out for the second time in three days, manager Davey Johnson again juggled his rotation and addressed the plight of relief pitcher Alan Mills, injured during pre-game batting practice Friday. The Rangers quietly celebrated another day to get well.

The Orioles called the game about 50 minutes before its scheduled 1: 35 p.m. start, as the two teams fell victim to the same storm system that beset the Orioles in Kansas City. The makeup date will be announced later this week.

The Orioles continue to evaluate Mills, the loser in a near head-on collision with teammate Lenny Webster on Friday. Mills said yesterday that his condition had improved from the night before. However, he still moved stiffly through the clubhouse and was unable to turn his head without moving his shoulders.

"We just ran into each other. That's all," Mills said of the incident.

The freakish collision took place as Mills and Webster were sprinting after the same ground ball. Neither saw the other until it was too late. Webster glimpsed Mills bearing down on him and, fearing a head-on collision, raised up. The side of Mills' head crashed into Webster's body, dropping the pitcher to the turf. Mills remained still without speaking for a moment, his left side numb. He eventually picked himself up, but had to be helped from the field.

"I feel real bad about it," said Webster, who was not hurt in the collision and had been scheduled to start yesterday. "It was something nobody wanted to happen. I just hope he's OK soon."

The injury was the second to Mills in nine days. He suffered a slight groin pull pitching on Opening Day but returned to pitch two days later.

His current condition is similar to what football players call a "stinger." Recovery time ranges from several days to a week or more. For now, the Orioles will operate with a six-man bullpen. Mills has appeared in four games, earning a win and striking out six in five innings.

As for the absence of a doubleheader today, blame it on Economics 101. The Orioles did not announce a makeup date for their third postponed game of the season, but they never considered playing a doubleheader today. But by saving a gate, they also may have saved their battered opponent.

Johnson strongly favored doubling up today for numerous reasons. Most importantly, the Rangers now are able to favorably adjust their rotation, while Johnson has to further push back pitchers who already have gone a week without work.

"Whether it's split or we play two, let's do it," he said 90 minutes before the game was called. However, Johnson was never consulted. The Orioles prefer Monday, July 28, the day before they are to start a two-game series with Texas, as the makeup date. But first they must gain permission from the Players Association and the Rangers, who would be asked to play more than 20 consecutive days if July 28 is selected.

Playing a doubleheader today would have allowed Johnson to go through his rotation without additional delay. Instead, he pushed back yesterday's scheduled starter, Jimmy Key, to this afternoon, forcing an additional day's rest for everyone else. Already bumped by Thursday's rainout in Kansas City, Scott Erickson will now start on nine days' rest tomorrow. Shawn Boskie will make his second start Wednesday in Chicago, 12 days after his first appearance.

Nonplused over Thursday's move, Erickson was quickly forced to adjust again. "Hopefully nothing [will be affected]. There's nothing I can do about it."

The Rangers are used to this. They've yet to play five consecutive days. Like the Orioles they have been rained out twice and had a third game canceled because of inhospitable weather. Unlike the Orioles, they are trying to wait out injuries to two important position players, 1996 Most Valuable Player Juan Gonzalez and first baseman Will Clark. Both players remained in Texas, where rain canceled their scheduled workouts Friday.

"Our guys get sent back to Texas and get rained out there. That's how good we're going," said Rangers manager Johnny Oates.

Oates will now bypass yesterday's scheduled starter, Darren Oliver, whom the Orioles pummeled for six runs in four innings April 5. Roger Pavlik will take his scheduled turn today.

"I don't know how much effect it's had on our 3-4 record," Oates said of the postponements. "I do know we haven't played well consistently. We haven't fielded well."

The Orioles have had few such problems. Despite their postponements, they've played well enough behind a slow-starting rotation to put together a 6-2 start, including 3-0 at home. On Friday, Mike Mussina became the first Orioles starter to pitch into the seventh inning. Key has pitched six innings in each of his starts.

Ticket Exchange

The Orioles will announce the makeup date for yesterday's postponed game sometime this week. Fans with tickets for yesterday's game can use them on the makeup date to be announced or switch them for any of the 10 following exchange dates, subject to availability. (Fans living outside a 75-mile radius from Camden Yards can mail the tickets in for a refund.)

Day, date .. ..Opponent .. ... ...Time

Fri., 5/2 .. ..Oakland .. .. ....7: 35

Tue., 5/20 .. .Detroit .. .. .. .7: 35

Mon., 6/16 .. .Montreal .. .. ...7: 35

Thu., 6/26 .. .Toronto .. .. .. .7: 35

Mon., 7/14 .. .Toronto .. .. .. .7: 35

Tue., 7/29 .. .Texas .. .. .. ...7: 35

Wed., 8/13 .. .Oakland .. .. .. .7: 35

Tue., 8/26 .. .Kansas City .. .. 7: 35

Wed., 9/17 .. .Milwaukee .. .. ..7: 35

Fri., 9/19 .. .Detroit .. .. .. .7: 35

Pub Date: 4/13/97

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