ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Ray Miller has tried to keep a managerial distance from the pitching staff, but he decided to take a deteriorating situation into his own hands yesterday.
Miller said before last night's 8-2 victory that he was planning to address the struggling pitching staff during the regular meeting that pitching coach Mike Flanagan holds before the opener of each series. The subject: Trying to do too much.
He wanted to remind everyone to concentrate on their own jobs rather than try to compensate for the loss of several pitchers -- most notably Mike Mussina and Scott Kamieniecki -- to injuries during the first six weeks of the season.
"With Kamieniecki and Mussina down, everybody was trying to do too much," Miller said. "There's a fine line between overthrowing and pitching well."
Right-hander Scott Erickson's disappointing performance in Wednesday's lopsided loss to Cleveland apparently prompted Miller's decision to take a more hands-on approach, though the impromptu speech was not directed at any one pitcher.
"I'm going to address that tonight, with him and with everybody," Miller said. "In my opinion, Scotty's trying to carry the whole load. You get behind and then you start throwing fastballs to fastball hitters. I don't care how hard you throw or how much the ball sinks, you can't get away with that."
Specifically, Miller was referring to the at-bat that turned Wednesday's game into a rout. Erickson got behind on the count to Indians first baseman Jim Thome, then left a fastball over the plate that turned a 4-1 deficit into a 7-1 pending blowout. But the manager could have cited a variety of incidents in the course of the Orioles' 6-14 tailspin before last night.
"This is no shot at Flanny, but I told Mike that last year we had some success identifying two or three guys that we didn't want to beat us," Miller said. "In the blowouts, those are the guys who have done the damage. I said I wouldn't second-guess players or berate guys and I'm not doing that. It's just something I've seen and it bugs me."
First baseman Rafael Palmeiro was sporting a large icepack )) on his right forearm after the game, the result of two inside pitches that struck him on about the same spot. His arm still appeared swollen after the wrap came off, but he said he expects to play tonight.
"It's going to hurt more tomorrow than it does today and it's going to be stiff," he said, "but it's going to take more than that to get me out of there, I think."
Tony Saunders hit Palmeiro the first time. Reliever Albie Lopez hit him the second time, just after Eric Davis homered in the seventh inning. That raised eyebrows in the Orioles dugout and brought Miller out to complain to the umpires, but Palmeiro said that he didn't think either pitch was intentional.
Miller didn't care.
"I don't know if they were intentional or not," Miller said, "but my guy got hit by two balls in the middle of the batter's box. I don't care if this is an expansion team, this is the major leagues and you don't throw the ball in the middle of the batter's box."
More on Johns
Reliever Doug Johns, placed on the disabled list yesterday for insomnia, took the loss in last Saturday's 11-inning, 8-7 loss to Minnesota. He attended Sunday's home game, but did not accompany the club on its current road trip for "personal reasons."
Miller said Johns was upset when he phoned on Monday's off day. "We were totally unaware of it," Miller said of Johns' sleep problems. "We had no knowledge of anything until he came to us."
Mathews on the mend
After returning to his Louisiana home for several days, disabled reliever Terry Mathews returned to the club yesterday with his sore right wrist immobilized. Mathews has been told to refrain from exercising the wrist for several more days before beginning a rehab program. Mathews was placed on the disabled list May 2 due to inflammation of the wrist. He received a cortisone injection in the area several days before and may take a second shot next week.
"Something needed to be done. That became pretty clear. As much as I wanted to help the team, that wasn't happening," he said.
How ridiculous are the dimensions at Tropicana Field? To prevent themselves from running out of balls during batting practice, Miller stationed bullpen catcher Sam Snider in the stands to retrieve the long-ball barrage. Miller christened the erector-set atmosphere "arena baseball." Miller then read verbatim from the stadium ground rules. Following a five-minute recital, Miller then gave his interpretation to his players: "Everything that goes up, converge."
The Devil Rays took future Hall of Famer Wade Boggs off the 15-day disabled list and optioned former Oriole Jerome Walton to their Triple-A affiliate at Durham, N.C.
Or so they thought.
The optional assignment of Walton was rescinded after he reported that he was suffering from back stiffness. He underwent an MRI and the club placed him on the 15-day disabled list instead.
If all this sounds mildly suspicious, it cannot be considered surprising in light of Walton's long history of injuries -- both real and some that appear real convenient.
Around the horn
Eric Davis cranked one ball that lodged in a catwalk suspended more than 100 feet above the field in batting practice. Tampa Bay's John Flaherty ended an 0-for-30 slide with a third-inning single. When Brady Anderson faced Devil Rays reliever Esteban Yan in his first at-bat in the seventh inning, he was in an 0-for-15 slide and hitting .077, the same as Yan's ERA. Anderson popped up with the bases full.
Pub Date: 5/09/98