Kamieniecki passes last test before his return Right-hander says it's 'best I've felt all year'; Davis homer streak ends


ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- As of Tuesday, the Orioles' starting rotation becomes whole again. With a productive side session, Scott Kamieniecki confirmed yesterday that he has sufficiently recovered from a groin pull and an inflamed right elbow to leave the disabled list Tuesday, when he will make his first start since April 24 against the Minnesota Twins.

"The last two or three side [sessions] are the best I've felt all year," said Kamieniecki, who made three starts and compiled a 2-1 record and 6.46 ERA (only third-worst among the rotation).

Kamieniecki estimates he will work under a 75-pitch limit against the Twins, a number manager Ray Miller wouldn't confirm. "Hopefully the first one or two times back everything will fall into place," Kamieniecki said.

Kamieniecki got only one out in his last start, a six-run crash landing against Oakland, in which he allowed four hits, two walks and a three-run homer. Kamieniecki admitted feeling "helpless" during his last two starts because of an inability to throw from the proper arm slot. In altering his delivery to protect his groin, Kamieniecki irritated his fragile elbow.

"It really wasn't any better the time before [April 18] in Texas," Kamieniecki said. "I was just fortunate that they didn't hit it that time. But I was pretty much helpless that time, too."

An MRI and an arthrogram were performed on Kamieniecki before he went on the disabled list but showed no major damage.

Kamieniecki's return comes at an opportune time as the Orioles just began a run of 19 games in 19 days. After Tuesday he is set to start May 17 at home against Tampa Bay and May 22 in Oakland. Miller can then choose to skip him following an off day May 27.

Davis streak ends

Right fielder Eric Davis came into last night's game with at least one home run in each of his previous four starts, but he had just a ground ball single in five at-bats. He made one real attempt at extending the streak when he drove a long fly ball to center field in the first inning, but Quinton McCracken ran it down on the warning track -- about 400 feet from home plate.

Miller is convinced that, in Davis' case, less playing time can translate into more production, and he has some statistical evidence to support that theory. Five of the six home runs that Davis has hit this year have come in games following an off day or a game that he did not start.

"If I'm smart, I'd play him every other day," Miller said. "Every time I give him a day off, he hits one out the next day. I could get 81 home runs out of him."

Palmeiro checks in

First baseman Rafael Palmeiro was hitless in 11 at-bats in the first three games of the road trip, but he homered in his first at-bat last night and had four hits in five at-bats, raising his average to .274.

Palmeiro's home run gives him 145 with the Orioles, seventh on their all-time list. He has 277 homers overall.

Hittable BP pitcher

The Orioles recently realized what the rest of baseball had been suggesting for several years -- Vince Horsman throws great batting practice.

Two weeks after Triple-A Rochester gave Horsman his release, Miller is urging the Orioles to retain him as a left-handed batting practice pitcher. Horsman's best attribute is the same uncommon quality that helped end his playing career: He is a left-hander who throws a straight ball.

Brady Anderson is among those who have lobbied to bring him aboard. "I think we're going to try to do something," Miller said. "If we don't, I know this team [Tampa Bay] would like to have him."

Batting practice arms are among the most underrated roles in the game. Currently, bullpen catcher Sam Snider is the only left-hander among the Orioles' uniformed traveling party.

Horsman, 31, attended spring training with the Orioles as a nonroster invitee and appeared in six games, all in relief, before the Red Wings released him. He had no record but did manage a 2.92 ERA in 12 1/3 innings, walking only one. His 141-game major-league career consisted of stops with the A's, Toronto Blue Jays and Minnesota Twins. Last year he played for Taipei Gida and Chia-nan Luka in the Taiwanese Major League.

Around the horn

Miller broached the possibility of playing right field to B. J. Surhoff yesterday. Surhoff has never played the position consistently and hasn't appeared there this year. But Surhoff is a far superior outfielder to Joe Carter, who has labored in right. Miller would like to get Carter into today's lineup against left-hander Wilson Alvarez even if Davis serves as DH. Mike Mussina improved his career record to 109-51 (.681), moving ahead of Lefty Grove into fifth place on the all-time winning percentage list for pitchers with 90 or more victories. Tampa Bay has lost 14 of 17 after a 10-6 start. Roberto Alomar batted fifth for the first time this season. He became the Orioles' sixth No. 5 hitter this season. The Devil Rays have scored eight runs in Dennis Springer's five losses. In his first start since returning from the disabled list, Anderson went 0-for-4, but one of the outs was a 400-foot-plus fly ball that McCracken caught at the wall.

Touching them all

After hitting just 18 home runs in their first 23 games, including a five-game stretch without one from April 16 to April 20, the Orioles have homered in their last 11 games. Twelve of the 19 have come with the bases empty. A look (homers are bases-empty unless otherwise noted):

Day Opp., HR hitter (men on)

4/27 Ana., Alomar

4/28 Ana., Baines (2)

4/29 Chi., Hammonds (1), Bordick, Palmeiro (2)

4/30 Chi., Hammonds (1), Carter

5/1 Min., Palmeiro (1)

5/2 Min., Baines, Bordick, Davis

5/3 Min., Davis, Palmeiro

5/5 Cle., Surhoff (1)

5/6 Cle., Hammonds, Davis

5/8 T.B., Davis

5/9 T.B., Palmeiro, Ripken (2)

Pub Date: 5/10/98

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