Rather than wait until the final day to pitch in his 70th game, as he did last year, Orioles reliever Buddy Groom should achieve the milestone with room to spare.
Groom and the Arizona Diamondbacks' Mike Myers share the major-league record of six consecutive seasons with 70 or more appearances. Groom, the Orioles' primary left-handed setup man, has reached 63 - putting him four ahead of Myers.
Aware of the streak's importance to Groom, manager Mike Hargrove made sure to use him extensively over the final weeks of the 2001 season. He took it to the limit, calling upon Groom on Oct. 6 while a capacity crowd bid Cal Ripken farewell.
"It seems like it's going on that path where it'll be a little easier to get it this year without having to rush," said Groom, who turned 37 in July. "That way, late in the season, if he feels like he needs to give me a couple extra days and I've already gotten to 70, that might be able to happen. I don't ask for that, but it's always an alternative."
The record "still is something to be proud of," he said. "I'm not one to brag or boast about what I've done, but it's a pretty awesome thing to be able to do that, to have the longevity to do it. I've got two more years here, so I'll see if I can do it again."
Groom, who received a two-year extension before the season, might not have gotten the chance to extend his record if the players had gone on strike.
"It did cross my mind," he said, "but that's part of the business. Streaks are going to end at one point or another. If it would have happened, it would have happened, but I'm glad it didn't."
Matos gets start
Stacking the lineup with right-handed batters, Hargrove gave Luis Matos his first start in 2002. Rather than go unnoticed, Matos drew a standing ovation after making a diving catch to rob Todd Hollandsworth and end the second inning.
Matos entered Wednesday's game as a pinch runner and played the last two innings in right field, where he returned last night. He spent two months at extended spring training in Sarasota, Fla. after breaking the hamate bone in his left hand on March 9, and went 0-for-1 with the Orioles during a five-day span in July before they optioned him to Double-A Bowie.
"He needs to play," Hargrove said. "His major sticking point has been his offense. And the last couple years he's battled the injury bug, which has limited his at-bats and limited the timetable for his development. But every year he gets better. Every time we see him, he looks stronger.
"Luis has a lot of talent. It just needs to come together."
Next move, Maduro?
Calvin Maduro threw in the bullpen before Wednesday's game, going exclusively with his fastball, and said he should be ready to pitch within a week.
Are the Orioles ready to activate him?
They would have to clear room on the 40-man roster because Maduro remains on the 60-day disabled list after having surgery to remove a spur and bone chips in his right elbow.
Hargrove said the club hasn't made a decision on Maduro, who was encouraged by the bullpen session. "I felt good. No pain at all," he said.
Said Hargrove: "He's doing pretty good. He said this was the first time in a long time that he didn't have any pain in his elbow."
Around the horn
Shortstop Ed Rogers made his major-league debut, entering as a defensive replacement in the sixth inning. He grounded out in his only at-bat. ... The Orioles have decided not to send David Segui on an injury rehab assignment or activate him from the 60-day disabled list. He'll undergo a magnetic resonance imaging test on his surgically repaired left wrist today at 11 a.m. Insurance covers Segui's salary while he's on the DL. ... The club continues to list Sunday's starter as "undecided," though a decision apparently has been made. Rookie John Stephens' turn falls on that day. Other options include Pat Hentgen, who still hasn't been activated, or rookie Steve Bechler. ... Reliever Kris Foster, who missed most of the season after having surgery May 22 to shave the bone behind his right elbow and remove some chips, threw in the Orioles' bullpen Wednesday. Foster, who also strained his forearm muscle last month, is scheduled to pitch in the Dominican Winter League. The Orioles acquired him from the Los Angeles Dodgers, along with catcher Geronimo Gil, for reliever Mike Trombley on July 31, 2001. ... The Orioles expect infielder Brian Roberts to attend their conditioning program in Arizona during the winter in preparation for the 2003 season. Roberts was weakened by a virus during the last two weeks of Triple-A Rochester's season. "He needs some time to rest right now," said Syd Thrift, vice president for baseball operations. ... The American Red Cross collected 175 units of blood yesterday at the Brook Fordyce Blood Drive. By its conclusion, 202 people had donated at the B&O; warehouse. They received tickets to the Sept. 19 game against Toronto which were purchased by Fordyce, Sidney Ponson and Marty Cordova.