Pulled the wrong way in spring, Maloney is on tear back to majors

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Sean Maloney saw an opportunity, reached for it and grimaced. He pushed for inclusion in the Orioles' revamped bullpen, but pulled a rib cage muscle in spring training. Rather than catch a flight to Baltimore, he reported to the minor-league complex in Sarasota, Fla., without appearing in a single game.

This could have been the breaking point for Maloney, 29, who spent most of last season at Single-A Frederick after signing in June. But he got healthy, posted a 1.42 ERA in 15 games with the Keys, made four appearances with Double-A Bowie and took the next step.

He's hoping there's nowhere to go from here but up, which would bring him to the majors again.

Using a splitter to get most of his outs, Maloney didn't allow a run in his first 9 2/3 innings at Triple-A Rochester covering 10 appearances. He hit a bump in two games last week, permitting five earned runs in two innings, but went into the weekend with a 3.86 ERA and four saves in 11 2/3 innings. He had walked two and struck out 15.

He has come a long way from extended spring training and a "major disappointment."

"I tried to come back from the pulled muscle a little too soon and ended up re-injuring it. I basically had to start my throwing program all over again. It was a wasted opportunity," he said.

Maloney had stared down adversity before. He's battled back from shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum and the frustration of pitching at Frederick last year. For someone who had known the feeling of being inside a big-league clubhouse, with the Milwaukee Brewers for three games in 1997 and the Los Angeles Dodgers for 11 the year after, it was a tough detour.

"I had to work awfully hard to get back to Triple-A," he said.

Maloney has been used mostly in a setup role with Rochester, with the occasional chance to close. That duty usually falls to Gabe Molina, when he's not rushing off to Baltimore for another cup of coffee, or Ryan Kohlmeier.

"Really there are no set roles here," he said. "It's similar to what's going on over there."

An imposing presence on the mound at 6 feet 7, Maloney doesn't see himself toiling in the minors much longer.

"I'm 29-years old. I'm not in it to play in Triple-A," he said. "If I'm not pitching the majors, I'll move on. I'm not one of those guys who wants to just keep playing no matter what."

Triple-A Rochester

The Red Wings reached .500 on Wednesday (38-38) for the first time since April 7, when they swept Scranton in a doubleheader. ... Outfielder Jose Herrera carried a 10-game hitting streak into the weekend, during which he batted .390 (16-for-41) with four doubles, one triple and two home runs. Herrera came within a double in one game and a triple in another of hitting for the cycle. He spent parts of two seasons with the Oakland Athletics, both times making the jump from Double-A Huntsville, before joining Toronto's Triple-A affiliate in Syracuse in 1998 and appearing in 39 games with Rochester in 1999. An ankle injury in June ended his season. ... Left-hander John Parish recorded 12 strikeouts in seven innings last Monday against Richmond. Parrish earned his fifth victory by limiting the Braves to two runs and three hits. ... Former Oriole Rick Krivda, who's always enjoyed his greatest success at Rochester, is tied for second in the International League with eight wins. ... Former major-league infielder Jason Bates, who missed last season with a broken foot, was batting .170 with no homers and one RBI in 15 games. He also committed seven errors, and could be gone once Jerry Hairston returns.

Double-A Bowie

Designated hitter Rick Short and first baseman David Gilbralter were selected to the Double-A All-Star Game, to be played in Bowie on July 12. Just one problem: Short was promoted to Rochester after Thursday's game, where he'll replace third baseman Ryan Minor. Short led the Eastern League with 94 hits and was tied for third with a .337 average. Gilbralter was batting .298 with 12 homers and 58 RBIs going into the weekend. It will be his second Double-A All-Star Game, after his selection in 1997 while in Trenton. ... Third baseman Carlos Casimiro broke out of an 0-for-22 slump with a game-winning three-run homer against Akron last weekend. It was Casimiro's first homer in his past 140 at-bats after leading the club with 18 last year. ... Reliever Aaron Rakers recorded his first save with Bowie on Wednesday after being promoted from Single-A Frederick earlier in the week. ... Right-hander Rick Bauer is the first Bowie pitcher to give up three grand slams in the one season.

Single-A Frederick

Second baseman Richard Paz hit safely in 18 of 19 games going into the weekend, batting .435 (27-for-62). He had a 16-game hitting streak broken last weekend in Salem, but rebounded by going 4-for-4 with two doubles last Monday. He was leading the Carolina League with a .469 on-base percentage and ranked second with a .333 average. ... Outfielder Papy Ngungidi, arguably the organization's minor-league player of the year over the first half, had six RBIs in his first seven games after the break. His 50 RBIs ranked third in the league. ... Infielder Brian Rust was batting .423 (11-for-26) with four doubles, one triple, one homer and seven RBIs since the break. He was leading the league in slugging percentage (.554). ... Outfielder Tim Raines Jr. upped his stolen-base total to 47, second in the league, after swiping six more since play resumed.

Single-A Delmarva

First baseman Doug Gredvig, the Orioles' fifth-round selection in last month's draft, hit his first professional homer in Thursday night's win over Charleston (W.Va.). He also drove in five runs. ... Second baseman Willie Harris entered the weekend tied for second in the South Atlantic League with seven triples and ranked first with 71 runs scored. ... Mamon Tucker went 7-for-16 in his first four games after the All-Star break. ... Left-hander Erik Bedard hadn't lost since April 23, a span of 10 games, going into yesterday. He was tied for seventh in the league with a 2.73 ERA.

Single-A Hagerstown

Shortstop Brandon Jackson had hit in six of his past seven games going into the weekend. He was 9-for-23 with four doubles and four RBIs. He ranked eighth in the South Atlantic League with a .316 average. ... Outfielder Reed Johnson hit in seven of eight games, going 11-for-27 with two doubles, one triple, one homer and five RBIs. ... In Aaron Dean's past three outings, he's allowed five earned runs and six hits in 17 2/3 innings, with six walks and 15 strikeouts. But he hasn't gotten a decision.

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