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Parrish may debut vs. Yanks


TORONTO - The Orioles need a starter for Monday's game against the New York Yankees at Camden Yards, with this past Wednesday's rainout and the subsequent doubleheader punching a hole in the rotation.

Without specifying a date yesterday, Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said he might put left-hander John Parrish in the rotation rather than keep him available in relief during the three-game series in Toronto that began last night.

It seems like the perfect match - if perfection is making your major-league debut against the two-time defending world champions.

"We're thinking about putting him in the rotation. That should be answered in the next day or so," Hargrove said.

Parrish, 22, pitched for Triple-A Rochester on Tuesday, which would have him working on five days' rest if given the start against New York. Sidney Ponson would be kept on his regular schedule if handed the ball Tuesday. Scott Erickson would be given an extra day if held until Wednesday because he started Game 2 of the doubleheader, following Ponson, whose outing the previous night was rained out.

Hargrove could choose to flip-flop them and start Erickson Tuesday while giving Ponson additional time to recover from stiffness in his neck. Either way, there's an opening on Monday.

Parrish threw in the bullpen yesterday. Part of his audience included Hargrove, who was impressed. "He has a nice delivery, and he's got great stuff," he said.

MRI: Ponson neck just stiff

Hargrove said a magnetic resonance imaging taken in Baltimore yesterday didn't reveal any damage in Ponson's neck, which should permit him to make his next start.

"It's nothing other than just a stiff neck," Hargrove said. "Right now he makes his start. As we get closer, obviously we'll know more."

Ponson complained of the stiffness during the fifth inning of Game 1 of Thursday's doubleheader against Boston. Hargrove, noticing a drop in Ponson's velocity and signs he wasn't comfortable, visited the mound during the inning. Jason Varitek homered on the next pitch, leaving Ponson with eight runs and 11 hits allowed.

"He had trouble getting his breaking ball over," Hargrove said. "Then toward the end of the fourth and into the fifth inning he got a stiff neck. It's tough to throw with a stiff neck. He just didn't tell anybody until it was too late.

"Sidney's a young pitcher. He's not a finished product by any stretch, and for us to expect him to go out and throw like Cy Young or Tom Seaver would be very unrealistic. Young pitchers have a tendency to be inconsistent. You need to have patience. The kid's got good stuff. Is he going to be a good pitcher? I don't know, but he has the stuff to be one."

Amaral to test leg today

Outfielder Rich Amaral, on the disabled list since June 15 with a strained left calf muscle, will attempt to run today after persistent discomfort had caused him to cease that portion of his workouts.

"I've shut it down for about 10 days," he said. "Swinging and throwing, I don't even notice it."

Rookie Luis Matos has been starting against left-handers, taking Amaral's place as the fourth outfielder. Matos has 30 at-bats, half as many as Amaral, despite not joining the club until June 19.

Pickering done for season

A second disappointing season has ended prematurely for Rochester's Calvin Pickering.

Once on track to become the Orioles' first baseman, Pickering will be shut down for the next four months because of a slight tear in the quadriceps muscle just above his left knee. The initial diagnosis was patella tendinitis, but an MRI revealed the tear.

The injury serves as the latest setback for Pickering, 23, who hit .218 with six homers, 30 RBIs and 70 strikeouts in 60 games. It doesn't appear he can afford many more.

"It's a slight tear but he can't do anything," said Syd Thrift, the Orioles' vice president of baseball operations. "It's painful at times for him. It comes and goes."

Surgery isn't being considered at this time. Pickering has been told to rest before beginning a rehabilitation program.

Two years ago, Pickering was the Double-A Eastern League's MVP after batting .309 with 31 homers and 114 RBIs. Expecting to break camp the following spring with the Orioles, he was confronted with the disappointment of veteran first baseman Will Clark signing a two-year contract and his own assignment to Rochester. Between nagging injuries, he hit .285 with 16 homers and 63 RBIs with the Red Wings, and .125 with one homer in 23 games with the Orioles.

Some club officials have become frustrated by Pickering's inability to control his weight, which climbed over 300 pounds this season, and stubbornness at accepting instruction.

One member of the organization recently told an official with another minor-league club that consideration has been given to releasing Pickering, a claim that Thrift denies. "You never evaluate an injured player in this business. That's a trap," Thrift said.

Around the horn

First base coach Eddie Murray was ejected in the ninth inning for arguing in vain that a balk should have been called on pitcher Leo Estrella.

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