Improving Coppinger moves on to Baysox Rehabbing right-hander steps up from Gulf Coast; Wings' Gruber is released

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The Orioles may be getting closer to adding a pitcher to boost their starting rotation.

In the very least, a pitcher is getting closer to the Orioles.

Rocky Coppinger, on the disabled list since May 11 with a strained right elbow, will report to Double-A Bowie on Tuesday to continue his rehabilitation. Coppinger, who went four innings yesterday for the Orioles' Gulf Coast League team in Sarasota, Fla., will throw on the side here tomorrow and work out in Baltimore between starts.

Coppinger opened the season on the disabled list with a sore shoulder, pushing Scott Kamieniecki into the fourth starter's slot. In five games after coming off the DL, including four starts, Coppinger was 1-1 with a 6.30 ERA, 16 walks and 22 strikeouts.

On May 9, his last outing before going back on the DL, Coppinger allowed eight hits and five runs in three innings against the Seattle Mariners. He threw 74 pitches, part of a disturbing trend that tried the patience of manager Davey Johnson.

The Orioles continue to mull over trade possibilities or the promotion of left-hander Rick Krivda from Triple-A Rochester, but would like to have the option of restoring Coppinger to the rotation. The club has been searching for a consistent No. 5 starter all year.

Shawn Boskie (4-3, 5.63 ERA) will make his eighth start Tuesday against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Gruber released from Wings

The Orioles released former two-time All-Star Kelly Gruber from Triple-A Rochester. Gruber, trying to come back from a nearly four-year layoff after fusion surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck, battled a series of nagging injuries and was hitting .250 with two homers in 38 games.

"I'm here to find out if there's anything left," Gruber, 35, said in spring training. "I'm not in this game to hang on, chase records or to get into the Hall of Fame. I'm here to help this team win. If that can't happen, I won't have any fun and I won't stick around."

Striking outing

Pitching coach Ray Miller said the key to Milwaukee's Ben McDonald carrying a no-hitter through six innings Friday night was simple: Though he didn't bring his good curveball, he threw strikes.

"That's half the battle," he said. "He threw strikes on every pitch but one."

The exception was a second-inning fastball that nailed B. J. Surhoff in the back. Five of Surhoff's 10 career hits against McDonald are home runs, more than any other Oriole.

"I didn't like that," Miller said. "I'm not saying it was intentional. I just didn't like it."

In Key's defense

Miller laughed at the suggestion that Jimmy Key has leveled off after his 8-0 start. The left-hander is 4-5 since then and has lost four of his last five, but the Orioles haven't offered much run support. They've been shut out twice and have totaled three runs over his last four defeats.

"If we had scored five runs in these starts, he would have won them and everybody would be talking about how good he's throwing," Miller said.

Key allowed two earned runs in six innings of Friday's 3-1 loss to the Brewers. He's given up two earned runs or fewer in six of his last seven outings.

"If that's him struggling, I hope everybody struggles that bad," Miller said.

Hey dad, groove one, OK?

Neither team took batting practice yesterday because the Orioles held their annual Family Game. Children of the players and coaches competed against each other, with a little help from their parents.

Terry Mathews handled the pitching chores, which qualified him to give a scouting report.

The most potent bat, he said, belonged to Geronimo Berroa Jr., 6, whose home run almost cleared the infield dirt.

Mathews knew little about the hitters he was facing, a difficult proposition for any pitcher. "First time seeing them, you don't really know how to work them," he said, smiling. "Some of their dads got in and helped, and I didn't know whose tendencies to work on."

Around the horn

Eric Davis will appear on ESPN's interview show "Up Close" on Tuesday. Neither pitching staff yielded a walk. Tony Tarasco is 2-for-3 with two RBI doubles as a pinch hitter. Orioles designated hitters are batting .193 (42-for-218) with four homers and 16 RBIs over the past 57 games. In the first 27 games, they batted .349 (37-for-106) with four homers and 18 RBIs. Brady Anderson ended an 0-for-13 streak with a single in the sixth inning, but his average (.296) has dipped below .300 for the first time all season. Roberto Alomar (.298) also fell last night. Jeffrey Hammonds went 0-for-3 to end a nine-game hitting streak. Sixteen of Milwaukee's last 17 homers have come with the bases empty.

Off on wrong foot

Scott Erickson's past two first innings have been shaky:

July 6, 14-9 loss to Detroit: Hunter struck out. Higginson singled. Fryman homered. Clark walked. Hamelin grounded out. Nieves walked. Wild pitch. Easley hit by pitch. Johnson singled. Hammonds' error scored third run on play. Miller lined out. 5 runs, 3 hits, 1 error, 1 left. Tigers 5-1.

Last night, 3-2 loss to Milwaukee: Voigt singled. Burnitz doubled, Voigt out at home. Cirillo singled. Nilsson singled. Valentin grounded out. Newfield grounded out. 1 run, 4 hits, 0 errors, 2 left. Brewers 1-0.

Pub Date: 7/13/97

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