CHICAGO — CHICAGO -- The rotation equation is beginning to stir with next weekend's interleague series against the Atlanta Braves fast approaching.
According to Orioles manager Davey Johnson, the issue won't be settled until Tuesday when the Orioles play a doubleheader at Boston. Johnson is leaning toward starting Scott Erickson and rookie Mike Johnson.
Erickson would be appearing on three days' rest, but after throwing only 80 pitches last night, he is expected to be ready.
Thus, the Orioles would send their Big Three of Jimmy Key, Mike Mussina and Erickson against the Braves in a clash of titans. The Orioles appear in line to catch the full force of the Braves' vaunted rotation.
The variable is whether Braves manager Bobby Cox wants to use Greg Maddux on three days' rest Wednesday. If he does, the Orioles will see John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Denny Neagle on four days' rest. If not, Maddux, Smoltz and Glavine will appear on five days' rest.
Cox traditionally has worked one pitcher on short rest to avoid setting back others. If form holds, Mussina would be paired against Glavine -- who said the Oriole "sold himself short" by re-signing with the Orioles for less than market value -- Saturday afternoon.
Arthur Rhodes made his first appearance since May 25 last night and showed no signs of rust, striking out four of the seven batters he faced. AL batting leader Frank Thomas was among Rhodes' victims, and pulled a muscle near his rib cage in the at-bat and had to leave the game.
The left-handed middle reliever had been stymied by a sore left knee, numerous rainouts and a lack of appropriate situations before replacing Erickson in the sixth inning. Rhodes also had allowed runs in four of his past five outings and had surrendered six home runs in 25 1/3 innings.
But before the game Johnson said he wasn't going to rearrange his whole staff for one pitcher.
"Just because a guy hasn't been getting a lot of work, do I want to bring a long reliever and a middle reliever in the eighth or ninth inning? Do I want to do that? Do I want to switch roles with him and Jesse [Orosco]? No, I don't think so," Johnson said.
Surgery for Davis?
Despite Eric Davis' best efforts to avoid abdominal surgery, Johnson said yesterday he has been told such a procedure is likely.
"I know he planned to see somebody else and get a second opinion," Johnson said. "I don't know what that is at the moment."
Davis has resisted the idea of surgery since he was admitted to the University of Maryland Medical Center on May 26. Some doctors have held out hope that he could avoid surgery if an abdominal abscess remains dormant without antibiotics, but others have disagreed.
"They're trying to do everything they can to avoid surgery," said Johnson. "They've just about exhausted everything."
Davis was re-examined yesterday and taken off antibiotics. Should he require surgery, Davis would likely be out two months.
No interest in Mitchell
Even if Davis should become unavailable for two months, the Orioles have little interest in adding Kevin Mitchell to the roster.
The Cleveland Indians released the troublesome outfielder/designated hitter early this week. Mitchell had been designated for assignment after becoming involved in a clubhouse altercation with outfielder Chad Curtis, who suffered a broken thumb in the incident and was put on the disabled list.
Johnson made a push for his former player last year, but received little support within the front office. Though Johnson would remain open to such a move, there is even less willingness now to import a potentially divisive force within a cohesive clubhouse.
Around the horn
The Orioles announced the signing of four picks from this week's amateur draft. Among them was outfielder Shannon Carter, the club's fourth-round pick, who is a second cousin of Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Joe Carter. Also signed were fifth-round pick Richard Bauer, a right-handed pitcher from Eagle, Idaho; 12th-round draftee Darren Murphy, a left-handed junior college pitcher from Santee, Calif.; and 19th-round pick Jason Ryba, a right-handed high school pitcher from Brooklyn Heights, Ohio. The four will report next week to the Orioles' extended spring training facility in Sarasota, Fla., before being reassigned. The Orioles are 21-4 when they manage 10 hits or more and 19-6 when they steal a base. They also are 15-9 when committing an error.
Hits and misses
On the field: With the game tied 2-2 with one out in the fifth and Cal Ripken hitting, the Orioles ran themselves out of an inning when Roberto Alomar and Rafael Palmeiro attempted a double steal. White Sox catcher Jorge Fabregas easily threw out Palmeiro on the back end for the second out. The ploy may have been intended to help Ripken avoid grounding into a second double play. The Orioles also had runners on first and second moving in the first inning with Ripken at bat and his sharp grounder to short only resulted in one out.
In the dugout: Davey Johnson again lifted Alomar for a pinch hitter in the seventh inning against left-handed reliever Chuck McElroy rather than have him bat right-handed and risk aggravating his left shoulder. Alomar's left shoulder has been sore since he over-swung at a pitch batting right-handed Saturday and felt a "pop."
In the clubhouse: "Davey's done a great job of getting everybody in the lineup. Nobody's just sitting around." -- Outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds, who received his 33rd start in 54 games last night.
O's longest winning streaks
The Orioles had won seven straight games before last night's 7-3 loss to the White Sox. A look at the longest winning streaks in club history:
No. ..... Dates
14 Aug. 12 to Aug. 27, 1973; Sept. 20, 1970 to April 10, 1971*
13 May 31 to June 14, 1978; Sept. 19, 1971 to April 17, 1972*
11 July 12 to July 25, 1987
10 Aug. 28 to Sept. 7, 1982; Aug. 1 to Aug. 11, 1980; Aug. 29 to Sept. 7, 1974; Sept. 22, 1974 to April 10, 1975*; April 16 to May 1, 1966
*-Over two seasons
Pub Date: 6/07/97