Six days after suggesting that Chuck McElroy had made his last start with the Orioles, manager Mike Hargrove indicated yesterday that the veteran left-hander most likely would receive Friday's assignment against the New York Yankees at Camden Yards.
Hargrove explained the change as a desire to counter the Yankees' lineup with a left-handed pitcher. Rookie John Parrish, who lasted only 1 2/3 innings in his last start on Sept. 12, continues to work out his mechanical problems in the bullpen. With 156 1/3 innings on his ledger this season, including 120 in the minors, he might not pitch again until reporting to the Arizona Fall League.
"Right now Chuck is penciled in to pitch Friday. We'll look at that as it goes. It's not set in stone yet," Hargrove said.
McElroy made 603 relief appearances before receiving his first start in Game 1 of Wednesday's doubleheader against the Oakland Athletics. He responded with five shutout innings, allowing only three hits in a 2-0 victory. He kept the lineup card as a souvenir.
"We've got a lot of pitchers here right now," Hargrove said, "and you look for ways to make things more effective. Chuck was absolutely effective his last outing. He threw the ball very, very well."
Hargrove met with pitching coach Sammy Ellis to discuss the possibility of giving McElroy another start. He also spoke with vice president of baseball operations Syd Thrift "to get his views on it and see what he thought."
McElroy will take the opportunities as they come, and not fret if they cease.
"At least they know I can possibly do both, and that's the most important thing," he said. "Better late than never. I'm kind of glad it happened. It was fun."
McElroy has one year remaining on his contract. Unsure what plans the Orioles have for him, he interprets the starts as their way of mulling a possible role change in 2001. He could continue as a middle reliever or become a swingman.
The rotation is unsettled with Mike Mussina ready to test the free-agent waters and Scott Erickson recovering from ligament-replacement surgery. Pat Rapp could be on someone else's staff next season, and Jason Johnson could remain in the bullpen.
"I'm going to have fun regardless," McElroy said. "If they come to me and want me to start next year, I don't have a problem with it because that's how I train myself in the winter. I pitch every day so my arm and body are used to it. The only difference is I'll do more running. You have to keep up your stamina."
Anderson 'getting close'
Brady Anderson had been restricted to pinch-hitting duty his last two games, and wasn't in the lineup again last night against Toronto left-hander David Wells. He continues to be bothered by a sore right ankle, which caused him to be scratched from Friday's lineup.
Anderson walked in both plate appearances the last two games in Boston. He began an eighth-inning rally on Sunday that culminated with pinch runner Jesus Garcia scoring on a sacrifice fly by Eugene Kingsale for a 1-0 victory.
"I think in an emergency Brady could go tonight," Hargrove said, "but it's just smart to give him one more day. He said he felt pretty good, that he was getting close."
Anderson is hitting .343 (12-for-35) with 18 walks in his past 14 games.
The Orioles will open the 2001 season with their usual home dates, this time playing three games against the Red Sox beginning April 2. But not everything about the schedule is familiar.
At least one change is being met favorably within the clubhouse - more games against division opponents. The Orioles will make three trips to New York, Boston, Toronto and Tampa Bay, and those teams will make three stops in Baltimore.
"I think it makes sense to play your division more than you play the other teams," Hargrove said.
Another Ripken fan
Albert Belle's return to the lineup moved Cal Ripken out of the cleanup spot for the first time in his last eight games.
Ripken, who batted fifth and went 1-for-3, is encouraged enough by how his lower back has responded that he's leaning toward a return in 2001.
"That really doesn't surprise me," Hargrove said. "A guy who has the stature that Cal Ripken does and has done in this game what he's done, the game misses the guy on a certain level. If Cal wants to come back, then we certainly want him back. And if healthy, Cal can still be productive even at 40 or 41."
Hargrove noted how Ripken has dived for balls at third base without any repercussions. "He's continued in the game, and in a couple instances played the next day," Hargrove said. "Earlier in the season, after a play that extended him, the next day was very questionable. But so far, so good."
Already aware of Ripken's work ethic before becoming manager, Hargrove said he's been most impressed by his unselfish nature.
"A lot of the players who attain Cal's status have a tendency to be a little selfish and feel like they are the game. Cal's certainly not that way at all," Hargrove said.
"Cal's very humble. He loves the game of baseball and plays it with an enthusiasm you wish a lot of 18- and 19-year-old kids played it with."