O's let Roberts know that control is more than throwing strikes

THE BALTIMORE SUN

NEW YORK - Drawing comparisons to a younger Sidney Ponson, Orioles manager Mike Hargrove says he and pitching coach Mark Wiley will continue to monitor rookie pitcher Willis Roberts after the right-hander's on-field meltdown during Friday night's 14-5 loss to the New York Yankees. "It's not a one-day thing," Hargrove promised yesterday.

Roberts' unraveling in the first and fourth innings of a highly visible game against the three-time defending world champions put a different face on what Hargrove and club officials previously had dismissed as Roberts' intensity cut with youthful exuberance. En route to allowing nine earned runs in three-plus innings, the pitcher visibly disagreed with plate umpire Jim Reynolds' strike zone and disregarded advice from second baseman Jerry Hairston and Wiley.

Strikeouts and strong defensive plays have caused Roberts to engage in fist-pumping and shouting from the mound. The club saw nothing wrong with his gestures during a 4-0 start, but is concerned about him showing frustration during tougher times.

"I think you watch the way he reacts and you can tell he's fairly emotional," Hargrove said. "I was a little surprised at the extent that he showed emotion [Friday]."

Wiley again spoke to Roberts after the game about the importance of withholding emotion from an opponent's view. "You can be emotional about how you go about your business, but you can't allow your emotion to take away from your concentration," said Hargrove, adding, "It's not something you address then forget about. It's something you correct once you see it rear its ugly head."

Hargrove said Ponson made a similar impression upon him while he managed the Cleveland Indians, who regularly battered the young power pitcher. However, Hargrove also believes Ponson's presence the last two seasons could serve as a model for Roberts.

"He's made major improvements because of his ability to maintain his composure on the mound and rein in his emotions," Hargrove said of Ponson. "Honest to goodness, if somebody had asked me before I was hired by the Orioles, my first impression of Sidney Ponson was a tremendous fastball. My second would have been a tremendous lack of maturity.

"You could count on by the fifth inning that something would happen and he would lose his composure a little bit. To Sidney's credit, he's done a lot to correct it."

Pinching Anderson

Hargrove intimated Friday night that right fielder Brady Anderson could find his playing time "pinched" when first baseman David Segui comes off the disabled list this week. Yesterday, Anderson found himself benched against Yankees left-handed starter Ted Lilly. Another left-handed bat, Chris Richard, took Anderson's place in right field.

While refusing to draw a connection, it was Anderson's second benching in a week after an indifferent defensive performance the previous night.

During Friday's eighth inning, Anderson dropped a liner, then allowed a two-out fly ball to drop with the bases loaded. Hargrove described the inning as "biting" him.

Anderson missed his first game of the season May 5 after making an ill-conceived throw home that allowed the eventual go-ahead run to reach scoring position. Like yesterday's day off, it came against a left-handed starter, Andy Pettitte.

Segui's return will likely send Richard to the outfield to share time with Anderson and potential center fielder Melvin Mora. Richard entered yesterday 7-for-17 (.412) against left-handers. Richard went a combined 0-for-3 against Lilly and left-handed reliever Mike Stanton. Anderson, fighting a 9-for-62 funk that has dragged his overall average from .205 to .178, is hitting better against left-handed pitching (.261) than right-handed (.161).

Ripken finding consistency

Cal Ripken's part-time status appears to be easing. Coincidentally, the third baseman's bat also has resuscitated.

Playing a day game after a night game, Ripken found himself in the lineup for the seventh time in nine games yesterday, less than 15 hours after narrowly missing home runs in consecutive at-bats. He extended his hitting streak to six games with a 1-for-4 that included his 13th RBI. For the first time in four games, he was held without a double yeterday, but has hit in 17 of 22 games since starting the season in a 1-for-19 funk

"I'm making progress, for sure," Ripken said. "I'm feeling better and better."

Ripken, no longer exhibiting the tightness that accompanied his return from a fractured rib, appears to have found something against the Yankees. He produced two hits against both Pettitte and Mike Mussina last weekend, then narrowly missed a breakout in Friday night's loss. He doubled off the 408-foot marker against Mussina in the fifth inning, then was robbed of a two-run home run by left fielder Clay Bellinger in the ninth. His average now stands at a season-high .216.

"It started last weekend," Ripken said. "I feel like I'm headed in the right direction."

Jeter's sister recovering

For the past six months, Derek Jeter has kept a secret from most of his Yankees teammates: Sharlee, his 21-year-old sister, had Hodgkin's disease.

But after she underwent her final chemotherapy treatment Friday and received a "cancer-free" diagnosis from her doctors, Jeter felt comfortable sharing the good news.

"I didn't want everyone sitting around and worrying about me because I wasn't the one dealing with it," Jeter said before yesterday's game. "That's why I chose not to say anything."

Hentgen bit sore

With three days off in the upcoming two-week homestand, Hargrove does not plan on skipping any member of his rotation. However, an extra day of rest for Pat Hentgen (1-3, 3.58) will be welcomed.

Hentgen experienced moderate stiffness in the shoulder two starts ago against the Yankees. He did not throw again before starting Thursday's 9-5 win in Tampa Bay, when he walked six without a strikeout.

Hentgen insisted his shoulder presented him no problem. "I think five of the walks were on 3-2 counts and a few of them could have gone either way," he said.

Hentgen is averaging 6 2/3 innings per start.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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