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Major jump lands Falkenborg in 'pen; After quick introduction, he'll fill long-man role; DeShields to 60-day DL

THE BALTIMORE SUN

In need of bullpen help to get through the season's last three games, the Orioles have purchased the contract of right-hander Brian Falkenborg and placed second baseman Delino DeShields on the 60-day disabled list retroactive to Sept. 11.

Falkenborg, 21, went 3-6 with a 3.78 ERA, 36 walks and 77 strikeouts in 16 starts for Double-A Bowie. He had been pitching in the Orioles' instructional league in Lakeland, Fla.

"I've never known of anyone going from the instructional league to the big leagues. It was really a shock. This is a trip to be here," he said.

It became more of a trip when manager Ray Miller inserted him into last night's game. He threw two innings of scoreless relief, giving up two hits and walking two.

Miller said Falkenborg will become a much-needed long man in the bullpen. A void was created with Doug Linton being needed to make last night's start in place of Jason Johnson, who broke the small toe on his left foot while at home on Wednesday.

In addition, left-hander Doug Johns, who has been contending with a strained muscle in his right side, was pressed into starting duty tonight because Scott Erickson is bothered by stiffness in his right forearm. Miller also went through six relievers in Game 2 of Thursday's doubleheader.

Miller spoke with general manager Frank Wren on Thursday about needing another pitcher.

"I told him, 'We're kind of in a mess here with these guys going down.' It gives me another guy out of the bullpen," Miller said before last night's game.

"For the most part, Linton's been a five- or six-inning pitcher. I don't know what I'm going to get out of Doug."

Falkenborg was the Orioles' second-round selection in the 1996 draft -- and their first pick -- out of Redmond (Wash.) High. He made 14 starts for Single-A Frederick last season, going 5-5 with a 4.50 ERA, 18 walks and 70 strikeouts in 78 innings.

He spent two months on the disabled list this season with an inflamed nerve in his right elbow and went winless in his last four starts despite posting a 0.94 ERA. The Baysox totaled six runs in his six losses.

"In the minors, they look at a lot more than your won-lost record. It's about development," Falkenborg said. "I'm glad I got up here at the end of the year, but I would have liked to get all my innings in."

C. Johnson sits

Catcher Charles Johnson requested the night off because of soreness in his left hand, the result of being hit by a Roger Clemens pitch during Game 1 of Thursday's doubleheader.

X-rays taken on the hand were negative, and Johnson said he hoped to play tonight.

"He said, 'I think I can catch, but I'm not so sure about swinging,' " Miller said.

Johnson elected not to take batting practice. He was replaced in the lineup by Mike Figga, who went 0-for-3.

"It's sore. I got hit pretty good," Johnson said. "I thought I broke it. I fractured my right hand once and I know the sound."

Said Miller: "It was a terrible sound. I think it must have got some of the bat. It had to because that's usually the way a bone sounds.

"I'm getting tired of that, people getting plunked."

Miller heard some good news yesterday when center fielder Brady Anderson said he could serve as the designated hitter.

Anderson waited until after taking batting practice to proclaim himself fit. He's bothered by a strained right quadriceps that's prohibiting him from playing in the outfield, and needed X-rays on his right shoulder Thursday -- which were negative -- after being hit by a Pedro Martinez fastball on the right side of his upper back during Monday's game at Fenway Park.

Big month for Belle

Exhibiting the same finishing kick that marked his stays in Cleveland and Chicago, Albert Belle was named the AL's Player of the Month for September.

Belle batted .381 (40-for-105) with 14 doubles, eight homers and 30 RBIs. He became the 13th Oriole to win the monthly honor, but the first since Rafael Palmeiro in June 1998.

He also had been named the Player of the Week for Sept. 20-26 after hitting .407 (11-for-27) with six doubles, three homers and nine RBIs.

Belle, who batted .234 with 14 RBIs in April, also has become the first Oriole with 100 runs, RBIs and walks in the same season.

Around the horn

Using the numbers as further proof that first-half pitching problems doomed his club, Miller pointed out before last night's game that the Orioles needed three hits to set a single-season club record with 1,558 (they got the record on Mike Bordick's single in the fifth, then had five more for 1,563). They also need two doubles to reach 300, another club record. Their .278 average after last night is four points higher than the previous mark. Also, the Orioles have committed only 86 errors, with 14 coming from their pitchers and five from Figga. Martinez is expected to pitch in relief tonight -- probably two innings -- in a game being started by his older brother, Ramon. Asked if he considered Monday's controversy put to rest, Miller said, "As far as me, it is. I didn't get hit. It remains to be seen, I guess." Donnie Sadler's stolen base in the eighth inning was the first off the Orioles since Sept. 10. There have been only three attempts in that time. Miller had said he hoped Jason Johnson might be available to pitch in relief tonight, if needed, but Johnson said, "No shot. I can't even walk."

Pub Date: 10/02/99

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