The Orioles added five minor-league players to their roster yesterday, including pitcher Steve Bechler and shortstop Ed Rogers, who will receive their first major-league exposure. They also activated Sidney Ponson from the disabled list and listed him as tonight's starter against the Texas Rangers.
Bechler, outfielder Larry Bigbie and infielder Jose Leon finished up with the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings, who went 55-89 for their worst record in 23 years. Rogers and outfielder Luis Matos arrived from Double-A Bowie.
A third-round selection in the 1998 draft, Bechler went 2-1 with a 3.42 ERA at Bowie and 6-11 with a 4.09 ERA at Rochester. He allowed one run in eight innings last week at Pawtucket.
"I really wasn't worried about coming here. I figured I'd do my job and let nature take its course," said Bechler, who lost his first six Red Wings decisions. "I'm happy to be here; I'm looking to make a good impression."
Bigbie made the Opening Day roster but didn't appear in a game before the Orioles optioned him to Rochester when they acquired Gary Matthews in an April 3 trade with the New York Mets. Injuries prevented him from returning to Camden Yards sooner.
Leading the International League with a .400 average, Bigbie missed 10 days in May after diving for a ball and injuring his right shoulder. He also missed a month after spraining his right ankle chasing a foul ball.
"My main goal down there was to try to get healthy and finish with a strong season and hope for this. And it happened," said Bigbie, who batted .302 in 98 games at Rochester.
Leon hit .230 with two homers and six RBIs in 22 games with the Orioles this season. He batted .279 with eight homers and 40 RBIs in 83 games at Rochester. Matos appeared in three games with the Orioles, going 0-for-1, and batted .275 with nine homers and 40 RBIs in 62 games at Bowie after a broken hand mended.
Rogers, who gained unwanted attention this spring after the club learned he was three years older than his listed age of 20, batted .261 in 112 games at Bowie.
Infielder Brian Roberts apparently won't be returning to the Orioles this season. Syd Thrift, vice president for baseball operations, said Roberts has been ill for the past week. "We felt like it would be wise if he went home and prepared himself for 2003," Thrift said.
Oates stops by
Former Orioles and Rangers manager Johnny Oates visited Camden Yards yesterday as a guest of Rangers manager Jerry Narron. Oates, who has brain cancer, reminisced about his last visit to Oriole Park, when he threw out the first pitch on Opening Day.
"So much happened that day," Oates said. "It was very emotional. I remember throwing the pitch and I turned around and saw both teams standing behind me applauding. It was an unbelievable day for a has-been who never was."
Oates said that he continues to get positive medical reports nine months after surgery to remove a brain tumor. The type of tumor he had is expected to return at some point. Oates is realistic about that, but he won't rule out a miracle.
"I know there already has been one miracle - the peace the Lord has given me throughout this," he said.
Hentgen to join bullpen
Thrift and manager Mike Hargrove indicated no other players would be added from the minors except Pat Hentgen, who completed his injury rehab assignment by throwing 88 pitches in seven innings Monday at Single-A Frederick.
Hentgen's fastball topped out at 90 mph. "It's a couple clicks below where it was before I got hurt," he said of the 5-2 victory, "but I've never been a power guy who blows the ball by anybody. I think it will get better."
Hentgen will pitch out of the bullpen when first activated. Hargrove also confirmed yesterday that Scott Erickson has been taken out of the rotation.
The Orioles already cleared room for Hentgen on their 40-man roster by outrighting Howie Clark to Rochester. Clark passed through waivers.
An A-plus for A-Rod
Rangers superstar Alex Rodriguez was named American League Player of the Month for the second month in a row, the first to do so since Albert Belle in Cleveland in 1995.