Hurting O's bullpen is beginning to mend Benitez able to warm up; Rhodes' side 'improving'


NEW YORK -- Left-hander Arthur Rhodes will do some light throwing before today's game against the New York Yankees to test the strained muscle on his right side. He has been inactive since Thursday's series opener, when he used seven pitches to get Terry Mathews out of a jam and preserve a two-run lead.

Rhodes struck out Derek Jeter and Chad Curtis, and retired Bernie Williams on a fly ball. He said yesterday that pitching aggravated his condition "just a little."

"I feel like it's improving," he said.

Pitching coach Ray Miller said: "It hasn't gotten any worse, but it really hasn't gotten any better, so we decided to try not to let him throw the ball for a couple of days and take treatments and just let it quiet down a little bit.

"They say it's nothing serious, but it's nothing you want to push. He told me when he was throwing, 'I don't feel it when I throw

right, I just feel it when I overthrow.' So, I said, 'Well, don't overthrow,' being an intelligent pitching coach. But that's hard to do in a lot of one-run games we play."

The Orioles' bullpen is getting closer to returning to full strength. Armando Benitez, who hasn't pitched since Wednesday night in Florida because of back stiffness, warmed up in the eighth inning yesterday and would have pitched if starter Scott Erickson had faltered.

"Armando walked in [Friday] and said, 'I can get a hitter.' He walked in today after he had thrown and said he was ready to go. That was good," Miller said.

When it was suggested to manager Davey Johnson in the morning that a comfortable lead in the AL East afforded him time to rest his two relievers, he said, "I would like to use them these next two games.

"I was feeling awfully lonely in the dugout [Friday]. Guys I normally like bringing in, I couldn't. The bullpen isn't stout. It's still good, but it's not as stout."

Locating Key

Though Jimmy Key picked up the win in Friday's 4-hour, 22-minute marathon, improving his record to 15-8, he still wasn't as sharp as early in the season. Part of the blame for his lack of success since the All-Star break lies with poor run support, but he also is struggling with his location.

Key threw 115 pitches in five innings, allowing four runs and eight hits with two walks. He left with the Orioles ahead 7-4.

"I talked to him," Johnson said. "He needs to aim it down the [middle], not the corners. He's missing. I don't think he's tired. He's healthy. That's the one thing he's always had is location. Maybe this would be a good time to play him on the golf course. He probably can't locate the ball there, either.

"That's the least of my worries, if I'm worrying about Jimmy."

Long and short of it

With his club having been involved in the two longest nine-inning regular-season games in major-league history, Johnson offered some suggestions on how to shorten them in the future.

"Left-handed umpires," he said, raising his arm. "They can call more strikes. Or maybe we need calf-high to neck-high [strike zones]. Pitchers have to throw more strikes, and hitters have to ++ not be so darn good."

Day to remember

Yesterday was the two-year anniversary of Cal Ripken breaking Lou Gehrig's record for consecutive games. And last season on this date, Eddie Murray hit his 500th career home run.

Johnson was asked before the game what monumental event he had planned yesterday.

"Just a little win over the Yankees will be fine with me," he said.

The Orioles already had gotten over the toughest part of this series, making another strong impression on their manager.

"Beating [David] Wells and [Andy] Pettitte, winning the games they started, speaks volumes about this club," Johnson said.

Around the horn

Yesterday's game took just 2: 30, nearly two hours less than the night before. The Yankees have lost six in a row for the first time since Aug. 19-26, 1995. Ramiro Mendoza pitched a 1-2-3 first inning, the first time the Orioles had been retired in order in the series. Yankees DH Cecil Fielder, out since July 16 with a fractured right thumb, hit 30 balls off a tee and took 25 soft-tosses Friday in Tampa, Fla.

Hits and misses

On the field: B. J. Surhoff walked to open the sixth inning, then was forced at second on a grounder by Geronimo Berroa. With Surhoff bearing down on him, second baseman Rey Sanchez made a wide throw trying to complete the double play. Rafael Palmeiro followed with an RBI double to center, and after a pop-up and intentional walk to Harold Baines, Lenny Webster singled for a 4-0 lead. If Sanchez had turned the double play, Yankees starter Ramiro Mendoza might have come away unscathed.

In the dugout: Yankees manager Joe Torre brought in closer Mariano Rivera to pitch the ninth. There was nothing for Rivera to close, but he hadn't pitched since Aug. 31 against Montreal, when he became the third Yankee in club history to record 40 saves.

In the clubhouse: "Nobody's put away until they're mathematically eliminated. That's the way I look at it. I don't take anything for granted. I've seen too many things happen in this game." -- Orioles manager Davey Johnson

Pub Date: 9/07/97

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