Miller: O's aren't 'slipping away' Manager encouraged about second-half climb


Orioles manager Ray Miller conducted a clubhouse meeting before batting practice yesterday. The matter-of-fact session was heavy on encouragement, included a brief review of signs and did not touch upon his team's state of flux.

Clearly disappointed in the team's 38-50 first-half record, Miller did not choose to use the meeting as a forum for his frustrations. He instead emerged confident that the performances of several individuals would markedly improve.

Citing his injury-riddled pitching staff, Miller still debates the description of his team as underachieving, overpaid zombies. Asked before last night's game about a season "slipping away," Miller shot back, "Slipping away is your opinion. It's not mine. Nobody here is not listening and nobody is not trying. This is a very good ballclub that's been besieged by pitching injuries. The guys in the All-Star Game showed the ability we have here. We try. But when you're consistently down four or five runs for two months, it gets hard to push yourself."

During the meeting, Miller cited Tuesday night's play of All-Star infielders Roberto Alomar, Rafael Palmeiro and Cal Ripken during the meeting. Alomar, of course, emerged as the game's Most Valuable Player after displaying a breath-taking combination of power, bunting and base running. Palmeiro went 2-for-2 with an RBI. Ripken contributed a two-run, opposite-field double.

"I said how proud I was of three players," Miller said. "They were one hit from the record for hits from the same team."

During the meeting, Miller did not address the pending free agency of 11 team members, including Alomar and Palmeiro. However, the topic has become the overriding theme of a team likely to be taken apart by month's end.

According to Orioles vice chairman Joe Foss, who attended the naming of Bud Selig as baseball commissioner in Chicago yesterday, reports of pending trades are nothing more than "speculation" Foss said the club is involved in a two-week process of "gathering information and looking at our alternatives." Foss said a formal recommendation will be made to majority owner Peter Angelos at the end of the process.

Despite the public posturing of Atlanta Braves general manager John Schuerholz, the Braves havewasted little time in dispatching special assistant Bill Lajoie to shadow the Orioles. The Braves are one of several teams with interest in Alomar.

Two go to Bowie for rehab

Scott Kamieniecki and Jeffrey Hammonds took a significant stride toward returning from disk and nerve problems last night. Both started for Double-A Bowie in New Britain.

Kamieniecki made a 47-pitch, three-inning appearance in which he allowed six hits, three earned runs and one walk against two strikeouts. It was his first appearance against live hitting since May 22 in Oakland. Kamieniecki has pitched only 30 2/3 innings this season. He has undergone traction as part of his treatment for a bulging disk. The Orioles plan for him to make at least two more starts before returning.

Hammonds, disabled since June 6 because of disk-related nerve irritation, went 0-for-2 but was hit by a pitch in the seventh and scored a run. Miller has projected Hammonds' return for next week.

"I want them to come back 100 percent," Miller said. "I don't want to bring anybody back unless they're going to be ready to go."

Baines on the mend

Designated hitter Harold Baines was not included in the lineup against Red Sox right-hander Bret Saberhagen. That situation could change tonight against Boston ace Pedro Martinez.

According to Miller, Baines is close to recovery from a strained left hamstring suffered June 22 against the New York Mets. Despite a steady diet of right-handed starters, Baines has batted only three times since. Because of little organizational depth the club never entertained placing him on the disabled list.

Miller's protest withdrawn

Upon further review, Miller has decided against pressing his admittedly ill-fated protest stemming from last Saturday's botched call in a 4-3 loss to the New York Yankees. Instead, general manager Pat Gillick will craft a letter to American League president Gene Budig regarding the poor positioning and cavalier manner in which the umpiring crew handled the ninth-inning controversy.

Crew chief Ken Kaiser denied Miller the opportunity to speak with any other crew member after the call by replacement third base umpire Marty Foster and ejected the manager when he persisted.

Around the horn

Miller reiterated he intends to start Doug Drabek on Sunday in the series finale against the Red Sox. The Orioles had listed the assignment as "undecided" with Nerio Rodriguez a possible replacement for Drabek.

The Orioles signed their seventh-round draft pick, third baseman Tim Nelson, from Allan Hancock Junior College (Calif.). A member of the Canadian National Team playing at the World Championships in Italy, Nelson becomes the 20th draftee to sign. Another 31 remain unsigned.

Left-hander Jesse Orosco, 42, continues his quiet assault on a landmark few pitchers have reached. He needs only eight more appearances to reach 1,000 for his career. Only five others have done so. Red Sox first baseman Mo Vaughn spiced his third-inning at-bat by turning his bat into a helicopter that tore into the Orioles' dugout. Miller easily ducked the bat, which ricocheted off the back wall and caught pitching coach Mike Flanagan on the foot.

Vaughn told the Boston Globe before the game that he is confident that some team will sign him to a contract that will give him "fair market value." Vaughn rejected a four-year, $37 million deal from Boston during the All-Star break. "This isn't personal, this is big business. I'm going to get market value in 1998, period," Vaughn said.

Pub Date: 7/10/98

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