BOSTON -- The Orioles' most compelling competition inside Fenway Park may take place before this afternoon's first pitch.
Shawn Boskie vs. Rocky Coppinger.
Delayed 24 hours by last night's postponement, Coppinger will try to make a case that he needs no further time in the bullpen despite just one appearance since leaving the disabled list Tuesday.
Boskie must give manager Davey Johnson and pitching coach Ray Miller some positive signs after a difficult four-inning start Wednesday in Chicago.
Whether he returns to the rotation as early as next Wednesday or not, it is only a matter of time for Coppinger, a 10-game winner as a rookie last season.
The same may not be said of Boskie, who has fallen behind Scott Kamieniecki in his bid to be the fifth starter behind Coppinger. Boskie has yet to exhibit consistent control, walking six in eight innings and getting hurt by high strikes.
Given the rainout, Johnson maintained the order of his rotation except for Boskie, moving last night's scheduled starter, Jimmy Key, to this afternoon.
Key will be followed tomorrow by Scott Erickson and Monday by Kamieniecki. Mike Mussina will move ahead of Boskie/Coppinger maintain his schedule of four days' rest between starts.
Coppinger or Boskie would be slotted for next Wednesday's home game against the White Sox.
Coppinger gained an early advantage three days ago in Chicago. Taking over after Boskie was roughed up for nine runs (eight earned), Coppinger threw four scoreless innings, allowing three hits and walking none.
Johnson had intended for him to pitch no more than three innings, but an economical pitch count bought Coppinger an extended stay. Boskie's turbulent outing, meanwhile, represents the only blemish on a rapidly developing rotation.
Over the past eight games, the rotation owns six quality starts, a 2.89 ERA and has allowed 17 walks against 33 strikeouts. Minus Boskie, who was handicapped by appearing on 10 days' rest, the rotation has a 1.65 ERA since April 7. If there is a problem, it is finding enough work for the bullpen.
"For this time of year it's been outstanding," Miller said. "It's been real cold. We're getting great advance scouting and our catcher [Chris Hoiles] is doing a good job. For the most part, we're mixing speeds well and keeping the ball down. That's what we talked about all spring. If it keeps up, there's no reason this success can't continue."
Mussina seems to have benefited the most from Miller's doctrine of pitching down. He has allowed only eight base runners in his past two starts covering 15 innings.
The day off came as a relief for several position players listed as day-to-day. Eric Davis and Jeffrey Hammonds were held out Thursday in Chicago, and Roberto Alomar was supposed to join them. Though Alomar talked his way into the lineup 45 minutes before the first pitch, he is still nursing a sore left ankle.
Alomar barged through third base coach Sam Perlozzo's stop sign during the third inning not out of indifference, but because stopping might have aggravated the condition.
"I can do what I can do," said Alomar. who improved his career dominance of White Sox starter Danny Darwin to 21-for-43. "I wanted to play."
Hammonds, who started the first 11 games in center field, is bothered by a slight groin pull suffered Tuesday. Jerome Walton is 4-for-7 in his place after the third four-hit game of his career Thursday.
Davis, whose jammed shoulder was painful enough for him to undergo a magnetic resonance imaging exam and an X-ray, reported noticeable improvement Thursday and could be available this series.
The weather has been no friend to first baseman Rafael Palmeiro, either. One of several players bothered by a minor groin pull, Palmeiro left Baltimore with six hits, including consecutive home runs, in his last seven at-bats. However, this frostbitten road trip has put him in an 0-for-16 funk.
Opponent: Boston Red Sox
Site: Fenway Park, Boston
Time: 1: 05
TV/Radio: Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Orioles' Jimmy Key (2-0, 1.29) vs. Red Sox's Tom
Gordon (1-1, 2.75)
Game rescheduled for June 12
Last night's game between the Orioles and Red Sox in Boston was postponed because of rain and rescheduled for June 12, which had been a day off for the Orioles.
The Orioles had been scheduled to play an exhibition game that day at the Triple-A Red Wings' new Frontier Field in Rochester, N.Y.
The rescheduled game will be part of what now becomes a 10-game trip with games against the White Sox, Red Sox and Atlanta Braves.
Today's scheduled 1: 05 p.m. game is in jeopardy, as well. The forecast in Boston calls for rain throughout the day.
Pub Date: 4/19/97