Deciding that a veteran left-hander would be more favorable against the three-time defending world champions, Orioles manager Mike Hargrove has given Chuck McElroy Thursday's start against the New York Yankees in the opener of a four-game series at Camden Yards.
Hargrove also considered rookie Josh Towers, who was called up from Triple-A Rochester on Saturday when first baseman David Segui went on the disabled list with a strained tendon in his left hand. Towers, who's built a reputation in the minors as a control specialist, was 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in 28 innings, walking five and striking out 17.
The numbers were good enough to warrant a promotion, which increased the Orioles' staff to 12 pitchers for the first time this season, but didn't sway Hargrove when deciding on a starter.
"Chuck's left-handed, he's got experience in the big leagues and I didn't feel like it was a very good matchup right now running Josh Towers out there in his first start against the New York Yankees," Hargrove said.
He gambled last July by allowing John Parrish to debut against the Yankees, and the left-hander responded by striking out nine in seven innings to match Sammy Stewart's club record for a first outing. Hargrove chose not to see if history would repeat itself.
Each time McElroy seems destined for a return to the bullpen, he ends up holding onto his spot in the rotation. He almost lost it over the weekend before limiting Minnesota to one run over 5 2/3 innings in a 5-2 victory at the Metrodome that lowered his ERA to 5.12.
Ryan stretches out
Three times in his major-league career, Orioles pitcher B. J. Ryan has gone at least three innings in a game. It's happened twice in the past five days.
It's been done partly out of necessity, with the Orioles lacking a long reliever on Thursday when starter Jason Johnson couldn't get through the third inning in Detroit. Ryan held the Tigers to one run over 3 1/3 innings, not allowing a hit and walking three.
Hargrove let him complete the last three innings of Sunday's loss to Minnesota, with Ryan blanking the Twins on one hit, walking none and striking out three.
"In Minnesota, with the lineup they had, it called for a left-hander," Hargrove said. "He was throwing well. After two innings, he was pretty much used up for the day anyway, so we decided to let him throw the last one. He established his fastball, and he showed a nasty slider and split [-fingered fastball]. He's throwing like everybody knows he's capable. ... The big thing is B. J. is throwing strikes."
That's been a challenge for Ryan, who walked 31 in 42 2/3 innings last year, and 10 in 12 2/3 innings this season. The extended work, and positive results, lowered Ryan's ERA from 5.68 to 3.55. "That's always good," he said.
"I was a little sore the first day after Detroit, but it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be," he added. "I did long-tossing the next day and it felt fine."
Hargrove won't hesitate to use Ryan in a similar capacity if the need arises. He also won't do it with regularity. Ryan still is regarded as more of a matchup reliever who won't often be pushed beyond one inning.
"I don't think we really want to get in the habit of using B. J. in that kind of role," Hargrove said.
"It's the same situation," Ryan said. "If it's one batter or three innings, you've still got to throw strikes and make pitches."
Conine ready if needed
Jeff Conine was available but not needed last night after injuring his left hand in Saturday's game.
Conine had moved from first base to third before an inning in Saturday's game. He attempted to field a hard shot from Minnesota's Jacque Jones, and the ball struck the exposed side of his hand. "It found leather," he said. "Unfortunately, it was the wrong side of the glove."
Ripken takes a seat
Cal Ripken returned to the bench last night after making three straight starts and building a six-game hitting streak that ended on Sunday. Mike Kinkade, who went 1-for-4 last night after going 0-for-12 in the Minnesota series, started at third base.
Ripken produced his first two home runs, in consecutive games, and had raised his average to .188 before going 0-for-4 Sunday. He's hit safely in 10 of his past 13 games, with nine RBIs, while adjusting to a diminished role.
"Cal's a good player. You don't get to put the numbers up and have the sort of career that Cal's had up to this point by being lucky," Hargrove said."... Nothing that Cal does would ever surprise me. But that still doesn't change things. Cal asked me in our initial conversation if he was 14-for-40 with four home runs, would it still be an issue getting Kinkade playing time, and my answer was, 'Yes, it would.' It still doesn't change the dynamics of our situation here, which is to find out if these young guys can play. We know Cal can play."
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