Elbow pain could throw Rhodes to DL Key, Kamieniecki improve; Hammonds may start today

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Arthur Rhodes wasn't available again yesterday because of a sore left elbow. He will be checked by a doctor today, and Orioles manager Ray Miller said he'll talk to club officials about putting the reliever on the disabled list.

"It's a possibility," Miller said.

Rhodes hasn't pitched since July 4 in New York, when he threw two shutout innings. He has warmed up a few times, but the condition has persisted since before the All-Star break.

"I've been pitching through it," he said. "I don't know what's wrong. It's just sore, nothing major. But I may as well go on the DL so I can get it right."

Before yesterday, Rhodes was second among American League relievers with 57 1/3 innings, trailing only Chicago's Carmen Castillo (62). In his past 12 appearances, Rhodes has a 1.93 ERA and 34 strikeouts. If he goes on the disabled list, he would be eligible to return July 20.

Armando Benitez also wasn't available yesterday. He's still bothered at times by an abrasion on his right middle finger.

Kamieniecki, Key improve

Though not ready to pencil their names in his rotation quite yet, Miller grows more encouraged each day by the progress shown by Scott Kamieniecki and Jimmy Key. Enough so that their returns no longer are spoken in uncertain terms. It doesn't appear to be a matter of if they'll pitch again this season, but when.

"It's nice just to see light in that area. It's been kind of dark there for a while," Miller said.

Kamieniecki, on the disabled list since May 30 with a bulging disk, is scheduled to make his second rehab start at Double-A Bowie tomorrow, going four or five innings while the Orioles are home against Toronto. He's also scheduled to pitch Sunday.

"Kammy's probably two starts away," Miller said.

Kamieniecki threw on the side two days ago, and said yesterday that he's feeling good physically.

His command is another matter. Kamieniecki threw 47 pitches in three innings against New Britain on Thursday, allowing three earned runs and six hits.

It was his first appearance against live hitting since May 22 in Oakland, and, as expected, it showed.

"It felt like I hadn't been out there in a year," he said. "I was just trying to get my feet wet. I told the catcher to just set the target down the middle. I'm not going to try to pinpoint my pitches at this stage. I just took that as it's worth. It was my first time on a mound in seven weeks. I'm just trying to throw it over the plate."

Kamieniecki said the injury has been frustrating, permitting him only to watch as the Orioles fell farther behind in the AL East. "Ask my wife. I'm not a very pleasant person to be around right now," he said.

"I'm on edge, very jumpy. Financially, I'm set," said Kamieniecki, who signed a two-year, $6.2 million contract last December. "That part's done. I play because I want to play and I want to win."

Key threw in the bullpen Saturday for the second time since going on the DL May 21 with an inflamed left rotator cuff.

He threw all his pitches during his 13-minute session and has talked to Miller about simulating some innings in the bullpen before going on a rehab assignment -- throwing a certain number pitches, sitting, then getting back up again as he would in a game.

"I probably can't count on him until the end of the month," Miller said.

Carter, Davis play on

Jeffrey Hammonds wasn't in the lineup again, but Miller said the outfielder could start tonight against the Blue Jays. Hammonds was activated Saturday at the same time Harold Baines went on the DL after aggravating his strained left hamstring.

Hammonds hasn't hit in a major-league game since May 31, going 1-for-4 with an RBI while leading off against Texas.

Miller said he considered giving Hammonds a start yesterday, but decided to use Joe Carter as his designated hitter and play Eric Davis in right field for the first time since he was hit on the right elbow June 24 at Shea Stadium.

"I thought I'd give Carter one more shot and keep E.D. in there. They're both swinging the bat better," Miller said.

Good call. Carter walked and singled after striking out twice, and Davis hit his 10th career grand slam in the third inning and drove in five runs.

Carter recently placed much of the blame for the Orioles' downfall this season squarely on his own shoulders, saying, "I'm not doing what I'm capable of. I haven't performed the way I wanted to."

"Joe's a consummate professional," Miller said. "To be honest with you, it was kind of nice to hear somebody say, 'Maybe I haven't done as well as I should.' It takes a strong man to do that."

Wishing Mathews well

Miller said he believes Terry Mathews, who cleared waivers after being designated for assignment and was given his unconditional release, could help a team and benefit from a change of scenery.

"Obviously he was under a lot of duress here. Probably if we had moved him sooner it would have helped him more mentally," said Miller, who had a heated exchange with Mathews after the pitcher slammed the ball in his hand while leaving the mound in a June 19 game at Camden Yards.

"He's a good kid. All he needs is for somebody to give him a chance. I think his appearance allows people to boo him because he's built a little different. But still, you've got to get people out no matter how you look."

Martinez: Don't count out O's

Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez said he doesn't believe the Orioles are out of playoff contention, no matter what the numbers suggest.

"They can work themselves back up in the race," said Martinez, who suffered his first road defeat Friday night, 3-2, after giving up an eighth-inning home run to Davis.

"It's really amazing to see a team like that not being in first or second place."

Davis and Martinez, last year's Cy Young Award winner, have a friendship that dates back to when they were teammates with the Los Angeles Dodgers for parts of the 1992 and 1993 seasons.

"He's a very good guy," Martinez said. "I'm very happy for him that he has been able to bounce back and get his career back on track."

So close, but ...

Darren Lewis tracked Davis' grand slam to the wall in the third inning, but the ball barely eluded the leaping Red Sox center fielder.

"I got a glove on it, but when I hit the fence it fell out," Lewis said.

Around the horn

Yesterday's crowd of 48,193 enabled the Orioles to set a record for the largest turnout for a four-game series at Camden Yards -- 192,494, an average of more than 48,000. ... Doug Johns picked off his seventh runner, tying him with Oakland's Kenny Rogers and Detroit's Justin Thompson for the AL lead. ... Ten of the Orioles' 12 hits were singles. ... Cal Ripken moved past Billy Williams into 66th place on the all-time walks list with 1,046. ... About 6,500 tickets remain for tomorrow.

Pub Date: 7/13/98

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