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Maduro steps into starting void; Prospect to start Friday in Erickson's absence; Almonte eager for chance


FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Calvin Maduro was prepared to throw in tomorrow's intrasquad game, and again as one of the pitchers following starter Pat Rapp in Sunday's exhibition game against the Florida Marlins. This is an important spring for Maduro, 25, who's the only Orioles prospect out of options. He would find significance in both appearances.

Not anymore. Instead, he'll find a different set of responsibilities.

Maduro's dance card includes a new partner. He'll start Friday's exhibition opener against the Cincinnati Reds, taking the place of injured right-hander Scott Erickson, who sprained his ankle during Sunday's workout.

His revised schedule includes a bullpen session today followed by two days of rest.

"It's an honor," Maduro said. "I mean, the first game of the spring and having a new staff here. Pitching the first game for them to see is like an honor."

Maduro is hoping to win a job this spring either as the fifth starter or long reliever. If the Orioles choose to send him down to Triple-A Rochester, they'll have to attempt to pass him through waivers.

He's been receiving advice on his upcoming start from other members of the pitching staff.

"One of the pitchers told me to just go out there and have fun. I know I have to do that, but sometimes you go out there and you're not thinking that," Maduro said.

"I'm going in mentally prepared," he added. "Right now I'm getting in the best shape I can and asking questions. It's a pretty big spring for me so I want to do good here."

Hungry honoree

Wady Almonte came into camp as the minor league Player of the Year but still feeling as though he had something to prove.

Soon after the Orioles announced that Almonte was being recognized for his accomplishments at Double-A Bowie, they removed him from the 40-man roster. The club needed to make room for two additions, and Almonte was one of the Orioles being pushed aside.

So much for the security that comes from leading Bowie in hits (141), doubles (27) and RBIs (83).

So much for fretting over it.

Almonte said he never received an explanation for the move, but added, "I don't really care about the 40-man. I just want to play. It's no big deal."

It's almost certain that he'll open this season at Triple-A Rochester, continuing his comeback from a serious elbow injury that limited him to 21 at-bats in 1998.

"I know I don't have an opportunity to make the team here," he said. "There are a lot of guys who are ahead of me. But I just came here to show them I can play, whether it's Triple-A or whatever, and try to do my job."

Kingsale iced up

Outfielder Eugene Kingsale was walking around the clubhouse after yesterday's workout with a large ice pack on each knee.

Kingsale, trying to make the club as a spare outfielder, said he has some tendinitis in his left patella and mild soreness in his right.

Play (intrasquad) ball

The Orioles will play their first intrasquad game today, with Jason Johnson and Sidney Ponson on opposite sides and each scheduled to throw two innings.

Johnson will be followed by Mike Timlin, B. J. Ryan, Rafael Pina and Javier de la Hoya in a game that's scheduled to last 5 1/2 innings. Ponson will be followed by Buddy Groom, Al Reyes and Richard Negrette.

"You just try to get everybody some innings. That's all you try to do," said pitching coach Sammy Ellis.

Said manager Mike Hargrove: "It'll be the best chance for some of the younger arms to do something. Trying to get our status people ready this spring, I don't know there's going to be that many innings for our young kids. And I don't mean guys who have a chance to make the ballclub. I just want everybody to get through it healthy."

The Orioles also will play a 6 1/2-inning intrasquad game tomorrow and a 4 1/2-inning game on Thursday.

The lengths are determined by the number of pitchers Hargrove and his staff want to see.

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