Baseball is a game of adjustments, and Orioles reliever Chad Paronto has made one that he expects to bring better results after a four-game slump that produced two losses and a blown save.
Paronto has been working on the side with pitching coach Mark Wiley to correct a flaw in his mechanics that caused him to fly open on his delivery. Keeping his front side closed to the plate, he threw three hitless innings in Tuesday's 11-3 victory over Detroit.
"Mark and I have been working really hard to fix that," he said. "I realized I was doing it, and he could see it, as well. It makes all the difference in the world. It keeps the ball down more."
Paronto didn't need much tinkering after receiving his first promotion to the majors on April 18, when he turned in two perfect innings. Used again the next game, he allowed four runs in 1 1/3 innings, but didn't give up another run in his next four appearances covering five innings before encountering a rough stretch that began May 3 against the New York Yankees.
Relieving Chuck McElroy in the sixth, Paronto allowed two runs and two hits, with two walks, in his only inning and took the loss. He fell to 1-2 the next night after serving up a bases-empty homer to the Yankees' Scott Brosius in the eighth that broke a 5-5 tie.
He struggled again in Tampa a week later, allowing a run and two hits in one-third of an inning after being called upon to protect a 5-4 lead for Pat Hentgen. Paronto was used again the next night and gave up five runs - none earned - and five hits in the eighth inning.
"I made some good pitches. It was just one of those games where the ball fell in. I made good pitches and they found holes," he said.
Paronto appeared in jeopardy of getting sent down to Triple-A Rochester when David Segui came off the disabled list before Tuesday's game, but the Orioles optioned Josh Towers so he could rejoin the Red Wings' rotation.
"They're two entirely different animals," manager Mike Hargrove said of Towers and Paronto.
"I was thinking about it a little bit, but not a lot," Paronto said. "If you start thinking about stuff like that, it just compounds things. It's hard enough to be consistent all the time. The last thing you want to do is start adding things like that."
The three innings on Tuesday were the most for Paronto this year, including spring training and Triple-A. He hadn't gone more than two in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and 1 1/3 with the Red Wings. He threw 45 pitches against the Tigers, with the only base runners coming on a walk and hit batter.
"The key was keeping it under 50 pitches. That way I'll be ready to go in a day or two," he said.
"They've been great to me," he added. "They keep putting me in good situations where I can contribute to the team and not just pitching when it's 10-0 or 15-1."
DeShields takes a turn
Delino DeShields returned to the lineup after being rested on Tuesday. This time, it was Brady Anderson's turn to sit.
With Segui no longer on the DL, the Orioles are "back more to where we were coming out of spring training, with everybody healthy, and back to guys not playing seven games a week," Hargrove said.
"It'll be a combination of guys. Yesterday it was Brady. Today Bop [DeShields] is playing. Tomorrow it may be both of them playing and David sitting. There's no set rotation. We'll just go along and try to keep people sharp and get their at-bats. And the guys who are struggling a bit, try to bring them along to where they're swinging the bats the way we know they can."
DeShields, who was 1-for-2 with two walks and scored twice in the leadoff spot, and Anderson will continue to get squeezed by Hargrove's desire to play Chris Richard on a regular basis. Before going 0-for-4 last night, Richard was hitting .444 (12-for-27) in his last seven games, with three doubles, three homers, five RBIs and 12 runs scored to bring his average to .303.
Calling ballboys, ballgirls
The Orioles are searching for people who are good with the glove - in foul territory.
Open tryouts for ballboys and ballgirls for the 2001 season will be held May 31 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Camden Yards. Anyone age 16 and older can apply. Candidates are asked to dress casually, bring their own glove and enter the ballpark through Home Plate Plaza. They'll fill out an application and be given the chance to field grounders.
The Orioles also require any candidate to be "personable and customer-service oriented."
Home sweet home
The Orioles continued their longest homestand of the season last night with the second of 12 games played within a span of 14 days. They conclude their series against the Tigers tonight before playing three games against Minnesota, two against Anaheim and four against Texas.
"You have a chance to play better and more consistently when you're at home for a long time, so we'll see," Hargrove said. "I remember one time in Cleveland we had a two-week homestand and went 2-12. That was in '97, and we ended up going to the World Series, so you can't tell what's going to happen."
Ott's return expected
Tigers bullpen coach Ed Ott remained at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center after complaining of chest pains Monday night and again on Tuesday. He's expected to rejoin the team today.