The Orioles sidestepped a problematic roster decision yesterday when they placed reliever Alan Mills on the 15-day disabled list at the same time they activated starter Rocky Coppinger.
The move with Mills, made retroactive to April 10, had been expected since shortly after he suffered a pinched nerve in his neck in a collision with catcher Lenny Webster chasing a batting practice grounder before Friday's game. Mills, who experienced numbness in his left side for about five minutes, has struggled to regain range of motion with his left arm and has not thrown or run since.
"It's disappointing because I don't want to go on the disabled list," Mills said. "But I'll understand why it's happening. It's nobody's fault."
The roster vacancy was immediately assigned to Coppinger, who had been disabled on March 31 with shoulder inflammation. Coupled with Mills' injury, his performance in a three-inning simulated game Sunday convinced manager Davey Johnson and pitching coach Ray Miller that he was ready to rejoin the club without a minor-league rehab assignment. Johnson indicated that Coppinger would serve a brief tour of duty in the bullpen before rejoining the starting rotation.
To further protect Coppinger, Johnson likely will call upon him only to start an inning. Coppinger made only one relief appearance last season, a July 17 outing in which he gained a win over Toronto.
Asked about his temporary status as a reliever, Coppinger said yesterday, "That's the only choice I've got."
Coppinger could be available to pitch tonight in Chicago behind Shawn Boskie, who will be making his first start since April 5. "It's funny you bring a guy off the DL in the arctic cold. But I'm just happy to get a chance to pitch," Coppinger said.
Mills, who was 1-0 in four appearances with a 3.60 ERA, said his condition had improved since Monday but not enough for him to feel comfortable throwing. "Before, I couldn't see any hope," he said, "Now there's a little ray of light."
The move was especially disappointing to Mills since he had pledged to enjoy his first injury-free season since 1994.
"I did a lot of things last off-season to build myself up," said Mills, who has had shoulder surgery the past two seasons. "I'm disappointed the way this has happened. It wasn't anybody's fault. It just happened that way. It was a freak accident."
Mills showed that he could lift his left arm but did so slowly. Two days ago such a move was impossible. However, the duration of the injury is uncertain because of nerve involvement.
Hobbled Alomar takes seat
Jeff Reboulet started at second base last night in place of Roberto Alomar. Johnson said Alomar -- who is expected to sit again tonight -- has been favoring his left ankle, which he severely sprained before spring training, and also is bothered by a hip pointer. But Alomar said "the pain is more in my groin than my hip."
"I'll just take it day by day," he said. "I just want to give it time. Maybe time can make it better."
The pain hasn't restricted Alomar's range. He's still getting to ground balls behind second base, still running down pop-ups along the right-field line.
"You're not thinking about it when you're out there," he said.
Anderson goes deep
Hitting coach Rick Down said before last night's game that Brady Anderson hasn't adjusted his swing to compensate for his mending broken rib. Never mind that Anderson had only one home run, after setting a club record with 50 last year.
"He'll hit his home runs," Down said. "There were a couple balls that, if the wind wasn't blowing in, would have been home runs. He could have four or five right now. All you have to do is hit the ball hard, and he's doing that."
Sure enough, Anderson led off the game with a 355-foot shot over the scoreboard in right.
Molitor sits out series
Minnesota's Paul Molitor sat out both games of this series with a sprained left wrist suffered in a home-plate collision with Kansas City catcher Mike Macfarlane on Sunday. Last night's game was only the third he had missed since signing with the Twins as a free agent before last season.
Molitor, who had two more at-bats after hurting the wrist, said some of the swelling had gone down. He'll be examined today.
Around the horn
Coppin State's basketball team will be honored before next Tuesday's game against the Chicago White Sox, with coach Fang Mitchell throwing out the first pitch. The Eagles were supposed to be at Camden Yards Saturday, but the game was postponed because of rain. No one stopped the game to give him the ball but Webster registered the first caught stealing in 10 attempts by an Orioles catcher when he nailed Chuck Knoblauch at third base in the first inning. Knoblauch had stolen second after a walk. Johnson had several high-profile visitors before the game as he entertained Indiana Pacers Mark Jackson, Reggie Miller and Dale Davis in his office. The Pacers play Washington tonight.
Pub Date: 4/16/97