For this season, at least, the stretch drive has been replaced by lineup intrigue for the Orioles.
September broke yesterday with the posting of manager Ray Miller's lineup an orchestrated three-step process. The complication was an organizational decision that Brady Anderson, the club's everyday center fielder since 1995, will play much of the month in left field to accommodate Eugene Kingsale's audition. Another subplot had everyday left fielder B. J. Surhoff serving as designated hitter.
Miller originally posted a batting order without positions outside his office. General manager Frank Wren met with Anderson during batting practice to notify him of the decision, which Wren conveyed to Miller earlier in the day. By the end of batting practice, Miller's lineup included positions, with Anderson's traditional 8 replaced by a 7.
"I didn't anticipate it," Anderson said, "but then again I didn't anticipate us being 20 games out of first place."
Before inheriting center field from Mike Devereaux, Anderson was recognized as one of the game's best left fielders. However, Anderson much prefers center to left and has consistently pledged to retain the position.
Kingsale's audition does not necessarily suggest the club's intention to use him to displace Anderson. With teams using this month to closely scrutinize call-ups for possible off-season trade activity, the Orioles would like to maximize the 23-year-old Aruban's exposure. The switch-hitting Kingsale has above-average speed, a developing line-drive bat and below average power.
"We want to give Kingsale 20 games out there," Miller said, "but Brady will still get 10 or 12 more starts there."
Kingsale served as Tuesday's designated hitter, but the club envisions his future in center. The club decided to give the rookie ample playing time this month to avoid a repeat of last spring's forced decision on third baseman Willis Otanez. Like Otanez, Kingsale will be without minor-league options next year. The club must either commit to him on its major-league roster or expose him to waivers.
Organizational indecision regarding Otanez caused them to retain the 26-year-old even after a mediocre camp. His presence necessitated the Orioles coming north with 11 pitchers, a shortage quickly exposed by the starting rotation's halting April.
"I think that the main situation with ownership and Frank and everybody involved You don't want to be in a situation like with Willis Otanez and wait until April for him to get his chance because he doesn't have options," Miller said. "You want to find out about people, make evaluations on them and find out whether they can play or not every day, as a fourth outfielder or as somebody you want to move. I think it's the right thing to to. But again, I don't want to do that at the expense of anyone."
Anderson, meanwhile, is enjoying one of the best offensive seasons of his career. He is challenging for his first .300 season and has 19 home runs, a team-high 91 runs and 32 stolen bases. His combined slugging and on-base percentage stands at .903, the second highest of his career. One goal remained.
"What I really want to do is catch," Anderson said. "I'm serious. I think I should give Charlie [Charles Johnson] some days off. I can use [left-handed bullpen catcher] Sammy Snider's mitt."
Anderson's last start in left field was Sept. 26, 1995. He hadn't played there since Oct. 1, 1995.
Back to bench for Minor
Cal Ripken's return to the active roster last night resumed his pursuit of career home run No. 400 and sent Ryan Minor to the bench, though he'll most likely start at third base in day games following night games.
Minor has gone 13-for-69 in 24 games since being recalled from Triple-A Rochester for a second time on Aug. 3. For the season, he's hitting .177 with his first two major-league homers and four RBIs.
"I'm definitely going to take some experience out of this," Minor said after doing some early hitting before last night's game. "I've learned a lot of things. I made some mistakes and you learn from them. Hopefully, if the situation comes up again, I'll know how to handle it differently."
Minor made 26 starts at third while Ripken endured two stays on the disabled list.
"I had fun. It's the first time I stayed for an extended period here. It was a great time," he said.
Minor, 25, said he'll most likely play winter ball in December after getting married Oct. 30 and taking a two-week honeymoon. For the first time, Minor said he's completely focused on baseball rather than feeling the tug of basketball, a sport that earned him All-America honors as a junior at Oklahoma.
"I thought about playing basketball the last couple of years and it didn't help me as far as committing to baseball," he said.
Miller said he sensed that Minor was beginning to relax. "I think he was a little tentative at first," Miller said. "It's a little frustrating hitting, but it is for any young guy when you first come to the big leagues."
Next big thing: Ryan
Within the clubhouse sits a player who could post up the 6-foot-7 Minor: Reliever B. J. Ryan.
"I don't know about that," Ryan said. "I've seen him play."
The Orioles had seen Ryan pitch once before last night, when the 6-7 left-hander struck out two during a scoreless inning in Sunday's 11-4 win in Detroit.
"It was good to get the first one out of the way. Wherever it was, I was just glad to get it in," he said.
"I made some good pitches, I made some bad ones. It was kind of shaky, but I guess it went as good as can be expected."
Ryan was acquired from Cincinnati on July 31 for Juan Guzman, a trade that didn't come totally by surprise.
"I heard talk and it was kind of going back and forth, and I heard names going around, but I couldn't even worry about it. If it was going to happen, it was going to happen regardless," he said.
"I look at this as a good opportunity. It's working out well right now. I didn't really know what Cincinnati was going to do with me. I didn't know what was going to happen over there. I'm here now and this is where everybody wants to be. It's a good move for me."
Ryan had appeared in one game for the Reds before the trade. He's expected to begin next season with the Orioles, especially if left-hander Arthur Rhodes leaves as a free agent.
Honor for youth coach
Larry Monroe, volunteer coach of the Lockerman-Bundy Elementary School team in the Baltimore Baseball League, will be honored in a ceremony at 6: 30 p.m. tomorrow at Camden Yards. The Orioles will present him with the Ned Hanlon Little League Coach of the Year Award for his work in leading Lockerman-Bundy to its third league championship. Team members will also be honored, along with school principal Donald Lipscomb and team coordinator Constance Bell.
Pub Date: 9/02/99