Mussina shows he's in control, almost ready Velocity impresses Miller; Moreno given go-ahead

THE BALTIMORE SUN

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Mike Mussina became the first Orioles pitcher to go five innings in yesterday's 3-3 tie with the St. Louis Cardinals, the only run against him coming on a third-inning, opposite-field home run by Mark McGwire. He allowed four hits, walked two and struck out five.

Mussina's only serious trouble came in the first inning, when the Cardinals loaded the bases with no outs. But Mussina, whose error started the inning, struck out Brian Jordan and Willie McGee and retired Brian Hunter on a liner to left.

"My control was better today," he said. "I had my stuff down in the zone better than the other two games. I was using off-speed pitches for outs, throwing other things in fastball counts. That's probably as close to what I would be doing in a normal game, so far at this point."

Manager Ray Miller liked Mussina's velocity, especially when getting out of the first-inning jam. "He really reached back and popped the heck out of the ball."

Mussina threw 62 pitches yesterday. He expects his limit to increase to 75 in Sunday's start, then between 80 and 90 after that.

Waiting on Krivda

While pitchers pass through camp, Rick Krivda remains on the club, though still uncertain of his future.

Miller said he hasn't given up on Krivda, 28, who's 66-30 in the minors and 9-14 in the majors. But it's difficult to remain patient when the problems that are holding back the left-hander keep reappearing.

"He's got to pitch and get people out," Miller said. "He's got to get the ball down to survive at the major-league level. That's why his ERA is so high.

"Minor-leaguers swing at marginal pitches out of the strike zone, they swing at pitches outside the strike zone when you get behind in the count. In the big leagues, they take that pitch and make you throw the ball over the plate. And if you're up in the strike zone, you get hit hard.

"He's still in my picture. I love lefties and we have very few in this organization. I'm sure, probably in his mind, he's thinking, 'Hey, I won 14 games at Triple-A [last year]. I don't have to come into spring training and prove myself.' You've got to prove yourself every day you're in a uniform. You have to go out and put up some numbers.

"He'll get a shot, whether it's a one-inning shot, two-inning shot or three-inning shot. But you've got to stop people from hitting rockets all over the ballpark and get outs. And when you do, that's when people say, 'Gee, I like this guy.' Rick still has a chance to do that."

Moreno cleared to throw

Julio Moreno, who was among five Orioles pitchers optioned to the minor leagues yesterday, has been cleared to begin throwing today. He was shut down before the first exhibition game because of inflammation in his right shoulder, denying Miller the opportunity to watch him pitch.

Miller's interest peaked last year when Moreno, who was 9-6 with a 3.83 ERA at Double-A Bowie, moved up to Rochester and won twice in the International League playoffs, including the decisive game of the Governor's Cup.

"I was extraordinarily happy with him last spring," Miller said. "He had a very good year, then went to Rochester, with sold-out crowds, and pitched two unbelievable games in the playoffs. I like him. He's one of our better prospects."

Moreno will begin this season with Rochester.

Miller has said all spring that the players who put up the numbers are the ones who will play. With that in mind, he issued a challenge yesterday to everyone who was sent down.

"I said, 'I want you to come around that corner with your stats in your hand next spring, stick them in the door and say, 'Here!' That's the way it's supposed to be."

Trial and error

Spring training has been a time to experiment for some Orioles. Right-handers Scott Erickson and Armando Benitez are the most prominent, both throwing breaking pitches in certain counts during games that, if it was the regular season, would call for the hard stuff. "Backward situations," Miller calls them.

Miller liked how Benitez mixed in his off-speed pitches during the last two innings of Monday's game against Minnesota, just as he did in his two previous outings, but said such experimentation will cease by next week.

"Right after the 18th, after that off day," he said. "It's pretty much, 'Hey, you've worked on some things that I've asked you to do. Now, it's time to get ready to play and use that pitch the way you're supposed to.' "

Erickson, who gave up nine runs (seven earned) against Los Angeles in his last start, opposes Boston's Pedro Martinez today in Fort Myers.

2 women among PA finalists

After listening to audio tapes and reading resumes of more than 320 candidates, the Orioles have narrowed their search for a new public address announcer to 13 finalists. They have been contacted and will audition Friday at Oriole Park.

The finalists, whose names were not released, include 11 men and two women. Six work for radio stations and one for television station. There are also two sales professionals, a teacher, an actress, and a self-described longtime Orioles fan.

The team is seeking a successor to Rex Barney, who handled the PA chores for 24 years before his death Aug. 11.

Around the horn

Left fielder B. J. Surhoff hit off a tee for the first time since injuring the ring finger on his right hand in the Feb. 28 opener. He'll take live batting practice today and is close to returning. Surhoff had the finger X-rayed again yesterday and was told the ligament is healing fine. Outfielder Danny Clyburn said it will be another three weeks before he's able to resume baseball-related activities after breaking a bone in his left foot on March 3, but he's encouraged by the progress. "I can walk without my crutches now," he said. Miller has pushed fundamentals and situational hitting this spring, and for the most part is pleased with the results. "I've been a little upset with some basic signs that we've been missing, but it's been the kids who have been missing them, not our guys," he said.

Pub Date: 3/11/98

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