Pair pared from staff

PORT ST. LUCIE, FLA. — PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The Orioles' pitching staff became more clearly defined yesterday when right-handers Jorge Julio and Chad Paronto were reassigned to the minor-league camp, leaving the club to make one more cut and an injury-related move before returning to Baltimore.

Reliever Alan Mills will be placed on the disabled list this weekend while recovering from September surgery on his right shoulder, bringing the total to 12. Manager Mike Hargrove wants to take 11 pitchers with him, which places Calvin Maduro and left-hander John Bale on the bubble.


Hargrove said the cut won't be made until tomorrow in Atlanta, where the Orioles wrap up their Grapefruit League schedule against the Braves. Two position players, outfielder Eugene Kingsale and infielder Brian Roberts, are expected to be reassigned today when the Orioles play the New York Mets in Fort Lauderdale, Fla."[Julio and Paronto] both did very, very well. They were both equally impressive in what they did," manager Mike Hargrove said of the two departing pitchers.

"It's important for a young pitcher in his first camp to impress the right people, and they both accomplished that, at the very least. We just felt that, with the way the staff was right now, it's better for them to go out and pitch and gain some more experience and continue what they've done. If they both continue to pitch the way they have, they're not very far away."


Julio, who turned 22 earlier this month, struggled in consecutive outings after a fast start had club officials pondering his jump from Single-A to the majors. Acquired from the Montreal Expos for infielder Ryan Minor on Dec. 22, Julio allowed six runs and 11 hits in nine games covering 11 2/3 innings. Yesterday, he struck out two of the three batters he faced, raising his total to eight against three walks.

His conversion to closer, which began in the Venezuelan Winter League, will continue at Double-A Bowie.

"He needs to pitch," said Syd Thrift, the Orioles' vice president of baseball operations.

Julio was 2-10 at Single-A Jupiter last season despite a fastball that's been clocked at 100 mph. His velocity continued to turn heads, but so has his improved command.

"Even the home runs hit off him were 96 mph," Thrift said. "All he has to do is learn how to elevate that same pitch and get strikeouts instead of getting hits. Learned behavior."

Julio was left exposed by Montreal in December's Rule 5 draft, but every club passed on him. The Orioles had considered taking him, but instead chose first baseman/outfielder Jay Gibbons, who must remain on the club all season or be offered back to Toronto.

"We had long discussions about him for Rule 5, and we backed off," Thrift said. "Now it's good we didn't take him because we'd have to keep him. We were very fortunate with the way things turned out."

Thrift received favorable reports on Julio this winter from Jesus Alfaro, who manages the rookie-level Gulf Coast team, and former Orioles manager Phil Regan."[Regan] told me that he didn't know how we got this guy, but he was a real gem," Thrift said.


Center fielder Melvin Mora also chimed in after facing Julio in Venezuela. "Melvin told me, 'Hey, this guy threw 100 mph.' When we were at FanFest, that's the first thing he told me," Thrift said.

Paronto, 25, made a strong impression in camp by limiting opponents to two earned runs in his first nine innings. He gave up two more in two innings during Tuesday's final appearance in Viera, Fla., leaving him 2-0 with a 3.27 ERA, three walks and 11 strikeouts in seven games.

Having missed the first two months of last season with a tender biceps, Paronto could be used as a starter or reliever by Triple-A Rochester, where he appeared in 12 games last summer.

"He'll probably start, but it doesn't make much difference," said Thrift. "We just want to make sure he pitches. He needs the innings.

"He was throwing 92-94 mph consistently, with great sinking life. A power pitcher. That's hard to find. He also had good breaking stuff. He just needs to pitch. He's come a long way in a short time."

The remaining pitchers in camp include left-handers Bale and Chuck McElroy, who were knocked around yesterday. McElroy, projected this winter as a member of the rotation, was charged with seven earned runs and eight hits in 3 1/3 innings -- the worst outing by an Orioles starter this spring. He also walked six.


Bale replaced him in the fourth and served up an RBI single to Joe McEwing and a long, three-run homer to Benny Agbayani before getting the last out as the Mets sent 13 batters to the plate.

Hargrove hasn't revealed his fifth starter, though it's expected to be McElroy unless he's traded, with Willis Roberts at least temporarily headed to the bullpen. McElroy is lined up to pitch April 8, when that turn comes up.

McElroy, whose only two career starts came in September after 603 relief appearances, had permitted four runs in 12 innings before yesterday.

"They came out hacking today. I went out and tried to battle," he said. 'They found the holes and there's nothing you can do about that. I'm not going to worry about it or dwell on it. I'll just be ready to go the next time out. I wasn't pressing at all. Everything felt good.

"It was just one of those outings. It's not the last time it's going to happen, but it's not going to happen anytime soon. You just have to [roll] over and take it. There's nothing you can really do. I'm not going to worry myself crazy. All you can do is learn from it and rebound from it.

"A lot of people think I won't be able to handle being a starter. I can handle it. I've prepared all winter for it, and I'm looking forward to it. That outing today, those things happen."


Bale, acquired from Toronto for minor-league catcher Jayson Werth during the winter meetings, has permitted 11 earned runs (14 total) and 20 hits in 14 1/3 innings. Maduro hasn't given up a run in 12 1/3 innings.

The Orioles have 16 position players in camp and are expected to keep backup catchers Greg Myers and Fernando Lunar, along with utility player Mike Kinkade, who also can be used behind the plate. Myers and Jeff Conine remain candidates to be traded at some point.

Thrift confirmed that representatives for Jose Canseco, released Wednesday by the Anaheim Angels, have contacted the Orioles. Thrift declined further comment.