MINNEAPOLIS -- Struggling to keep the division lead in sight, the Orioles will have to thrive or dive with the same pitching that has betrayed them so often this season, general manager Pat Gillick said last night.
Expansion and teams' unwillingness to part with legitimate arms so early in the season have complicated any attempt to bolster a staff, according to Gillick, who has scoured both leagues without success.
The only alternative is to hope the return of starting pitchers Mike Mussina and Scott Kamieniecki will allow a tattered bullpen to heal. Or as manager Ray Miller puts it, "We need someone already here to step up."
The rotation entered last night having posted a 6.52 ERA over the previous 23 games while barely averaging five innings per start. The bullpen has suffered a corresponding meltdown, going 2-4 with three saves and a 5.42 ERA.
"There's nothing there, right now. As the season goes along, it'll become easier to do something, I think," Gillick said.
Gillick estimated the market would loosen in about a month. Until then, Miller must make do with a staff that has failed to pitch to form since a 10-2 start.
"We've got to get better. We haven't pitched as well as we'd like to pitch," Gillick said. "We might already have the guys to make it better."
The Orioles continue to wait for something positive from Norm Charlton and Terry Mathews. Miller has gradually lost confidence in Charlton and now uses him in mop-up duty. Mathews was scored upon in six of nine outings before being placed on the disabled list retroactive to April 30 because of a sore wrist. Despite absorbing Sunday's loss against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Alan Mills joins Arthur Rhodes as the only effective middle relievers.
Miller reluctantly attributes part of his team's troubles in close games to a glaring lack of speed. His attempts at starting runners and creating situations have enjoyed only spotty success while only half of the club's steal attempts have been successful.
The Orioles are 4-7 in one-run games, including seven straight losses in those situations.
"We haven't had a lot of luck, I'll say that," Miller said. "There have been situations where the other club has made great plays or we've hit home runs where it was called fan interference. Usually, luck is the product of hard work and talent.
"But the one thing we don't have is speed. It seems the teams that can fly are lucky. They get lucky because when you miss one they go from first to third or second to home."
Pub Date: 5/12/98