So far vexed by an uncooperative trade market, the Orioles yesterday signed oft-injured former 21-game winner Bill Swift to a minor-league contract and assigned him to Triple-A Rochester.
Released by the Colorado Rockies last Wednesday, Swift will pitch in relief tonight for the Red Wings and likely will work out of the Orioles' bullpen once rosters expand Sept. 1.
"We're trying to get better. We're just taking a shot with the guy," said general manager Pat Gillick.
Before his right elbow betrayed him, Swift was among the National League's best in 1993, when he went 21-8 with a 2.82 ERA for the San Francisco Giants, finishing second in Cy Young Award balloting to Greg Maddux. In 1992, he led the NL with a 2.08 ERA by splitting time between the Giants' rotation and bullpen.
Swift's last four seasons have been pocked by elbow problems. He was on the disabled list twice in 1994 with the Giants and
twice more with the Rockies in 1995, when he was 9-3 in 19 starts.
Last season, Swift made only three major-league starts as he began the year on the disabled list and didn't return to action until Aug. 26. After going 4-6 with a 6.34 ERA in 13 starts this year, the Rockies sought to place him on the DL again. When Swift, 35, refused, claiming he wasn't hurt, the club chose to release him.
"I don't think there's any risk," said manager Davey Johnson. "The Rockies are paying him the last month and we get a look-see at him. We've got back-to-back doubleheaders coming up and if he can give me a few innings at that time here's a guy I wouldn't hesitate to put into a pressure situation."
While with the Cincinnati Reds, Johnson often saw Swift at his nastiest. "We couldn't get him," he said. "He threw his glove out there and we either missed or beat it into the ground. If he's got anything left, we'll find out."
The Orioles are no longer optimistic about trading for pitching help. What was considered a 50-50 proposition by Gillick two weeks ago has been eroded by an epidemic of waiver claims.
Muscle tightens on Alomar
When Roberto Alomar came into the Orioles' clubhouse yesterday, he gave Johnson a thumbs-up, meaning he was ready to come off the disabled list and start last night's game against the Kansas City Royals. But he was removed after five innings because of stiffness in the right groin that he had pulled July 29. His availability for tonight is uncertain.
Last night Alomar singled on the first pitch thrown to him by Royals starter Glendon Rusch. He also flied out to right and grounded out before being replaced by Aaron Ledesma to begin the sixth inning.
"He said it bothered him a little bit, nothing serious," Johnson said. "I guess it's just a day-to-day kind of thing."
Alomar had spent time rehabbing in Sarasota, Fla., and said yesterday that he was about 95 percent healthy.
As expected, right-hander Esteban Yan was sent to Rochester to make room for Alomar.
Johnson toggles rotation
Johnson has decided against asking Scott Kamieniecki to again pitch on three days' rest in order to adjust his rotation for the upcoming series against the New York Yankees. The move means left-hander Rick Krivda will start the opener in New York Sept. 4 followed by Jimmy Key, Scott Erickson and Mike Mussina.
Coach Ray Miller notified Kamieniecki, Krivda and Mussina of the switch yesterday. Mussina was the most affected because Johnson at first intended to pitch him on six days' rest Saturday against the New York Mets. Instead, he will appear on four days' rest tomorrow against the Royals.
The move is a double-edged one for a team protective of its rotation. Kamieniecki avoids a rerun of the situation that led to his worst outing of the season, a 3 1/3 -inning, 70-pitch disaster in ,, Kansas City Aug. 19 in which he allowed eight hits and seven earned runs.
Krivda, 2-0 with a 7.13 ERA in four starts, is thrown into a pressure cooker. No novice to such situations, Krivda defeated the Boston Red Sox, 6-2, last Sept. 25 at Fenway Park to allow the Orioles to keep a 1 1/2 -game lead in the American League wild-card race.
Boskie on recovery road
Shawn Boskie threw on the side for about 13 minutes and said he should be ready to go when he's eligible to come off the disabled list Monday. It was Boskie's second bullpen session since being placed on the DL Aug. 16 with right elbow tendinitis.
Boskie tested the arm this time by throwing his breaking ball. "Everything felt good. I didn't have any setbacks," he said.
Boskie, who also threw Sunday, has pitched 7 2/3 scoreless innings with eight strikeouts over his last three outings.
"It's never easy being on the DL, especially when you're throwing pretty well when you get hurt. You want to keep going."
Serenade to past
Jazz musician Chuck Mangione, who performed the national anthem, stopped in the Orioles' clubhouse before the game and serenaded outfielder Tony Tarasco in front of his locker. Normally one of the club's more talkative players, Tarasco went silent and his eyes lit up as Mangione performed his hit, "Feels So Good," on the fluegelhorn.
"Do you know how many times I heard that tune when I was a little kid?" Tarasco said. "My pop played it until the record wore out. I woke up to that song every morning. The only bad thing was, hearing it meant it was time to do my chores."
Davis still a ways away
Outfielder Eric Davis says he does not intend to participate in a minor-league rehab assignment as part of his return from June cancer surgery.
Yesterday Davis said he is not ready to play games at any level.
"I'm not going on any [minor-league] rehab," said Davis. "I'm not ready for that. If I had started where I am now 2 1/2 weeks ago, it might be different. But I'm not even ready for a rehab assignment."
Webster to meet fans
Catcher Lenny Webster will be at the Babe Ruth Museum from 1: 30 p.m. to 2: 30 p.m. Friday to sign autographs and talk with fans. Admission to the museum, at 216 Emory St., is $5 for adults, $3 for seniors and $2 for ages 5-16.
Around the horn
Jeffrey Hammonds returned to the Orioles' starting lineup after missing four games with a sore heel. He went 1-for-4. Chili Davis' homer gave the Royals 29 from their designated hitters this season, tying the franchise mark set in 1982. The Mets said Bobby Jones would miss his next scheduled start Sunday in Baltimore because of stiffness in his back.
Pub Date: 8/27/97