Pitching in pain, Bechler hurt by slam, too


As Orioles rookie Steve Bechler ran to cover first base on a foul ball during yesterday's 13-2 loss to the Boston Red Sox, he felt a tug on his right hamstring. What followed was a valuable lesson for any pitcher.

Don't hide an injury.

Bechler returned to the mound and struck out Jason Varitek with his next pitch. With the bases still loaded in the ninth inning, and his leg still bothering him, Bechler served up a grand slam to Trot Nixon to complete the Red Sox's offensive binge.

Bechler, a third-round pick in the 1998 draft, left the game after falling behind 1-0 to pinch-hitter Freddy Sanchez. Travis Driskill replaced him and issued a walk before a strikeout ended the inning.

The injury prevented Bechler from pushing off the rubber. The early diagnosis was a strained hamstring, and Bechler said he doesn't expect to be shut down the final week of the season.

"I should have just said something instead of going out there and trying to be a tough guy and pitch. I'm stubborn," said Bechler, who was making his third major-league appearance since joining the Orioles' expanded roster on Sept. 3.

"You live and learn. I paid for it in the end. I'm not too happy."

Ottawa tie is near

The Orioles apparently have finalized plans for a two-year working agreement with Triple-A Ottawa, and an announcement could come as early as today.

Joe Foss, vice chairman/chief operating officer, met with Lynx owner Ray Pecor last week. The Orioles began negotiations with Ottawa officials shortly after Rochester's season concluded.

The Red Wings became affiliated with the Minnesota Twins last week, ending their 42-year association with the Orioles. Ottawa is prepared to sever its ties to the Montreal Expos.

Pecor bought the Lynx for $7 million in 2000. He's estimating losses of approximately $1 million this year after Ottawa ranked last in attendance in the 14-team International League.

"We'd like stability," Lynx general manager Kyle Bostwick told the Ottawa Citizen last week. "We'll make a decision shortly based on what is best for the organization."

Bordick counting down?

Shortstop Mike Bordick didn't play yesterday, perhaps reducing his career to the remaining seven games on the schedule.

Bordick, the majors' all-time leader in consecutive errorless chances and games by a shortstop, has hinted that he'll retire if the Orioles don't re-sign him for the 2003 season. Manager Mike Hargrove will make his recommendation to Syd Thrift, vice president for baseball operations.

"That will be talked about with the front office," Hargrove said. "I know how I feel about it. You probably know what I think but I really don't care to comment on that."

Hargrove believes that Bordick, who's committed only one error all season, still has "a lot of baseball left in him" despite turning 37 in July and going on the disabled list for the second consecutive year.

"I certainly think that if Mike wants to play, he is very capable of being a very productive major-league player," Hargrove said. "But that's a decision Mike has to make and I don't want to say anything one way or the other to exert whatever small amount of influence I might have with him."

A 17-for-88 slide since coming off the disabled list has lowered Bordick's average to .230. Bordick was heating up before fracturing his right kneecap on July 16.

"All players reach a point where it's hard for them to be the same hitter they were their entire career. I don't know that Mike has reached that point," Hargrove said. "I think the six months he missed last season [with a shoulder injury] has a lot to do with him trying to find his stroke this year."

Lopez ready, in case

Rodrigo Lopez is preparing for his next start as if it'll take place. He sees no reason to alter his routine until told that his assignment has changed.

Lopez will throw in the bullpen today for pitching coach Mark Wiley, and the club will determine whether he makes Wednesday's start in Toronto. The Orioles are concerned that Lopez, 15-8 with a 3.56 ERA, might be fatigued after throwing 189 2/3 innings in the majors and about 130 in winter ball.

"I haven't heard anything yet," Lopez said, "but my mind-set is to get ready for my next start. My arm feels good. The last time, I reached 93 [mph]."

Lopez is 3-5 with a 5.07 ERA in his last nine starts, and lasted only 3 1/3 innings in Thursday's 9-3 loss to Toronto.

"My arm doesn't bother me," he said. "It was just one of those days where you're out of energy, but not because you're tired. Sometimes your body doesn't respond, even early in the season."

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