BOSTON - Orioles pitcher Rick Helling has given up 235 home runs in his major league career, so he usually has a pretty good sense if a ball is headed over the fence once it leaves a hitter's bat.
But Helling was fooled yesterday when Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz hit a rocket to deep center field with the bases loaded in the fifth inning. Judging by the crowd's reaction at Fenway Park, Helling was sure it was a grand slam.
Orioles center fielder Luis Matos was shading Ortiz toward right, and he ran straight back on the ball, figuring there was only one place he could catch it: the area in front of the 420-foot sign on the center-field fence known as the triangle.
Sure enough, that's where the ball came down, and Matos was there to catch it for the inning's final out.
"My heart started beating 30 minutes later," Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said.
The Orioles were leading by two runs at the time and went on to win Game 1 of yesterday's doubleheader, 10-4, but that play would have changed things considerably. Ortiz ran past first base and just stood there in the infield for a prolonged moment after Matos made the catch.
"If he would have pulled it maybe 10 more feet toward the right-field line, it's probably in the [Red Sox] bullpen for a grand slam," Helling said. "It was huge. I was in trouble that inning. That's not a routine play at all, especially with parks like this that are quirky."
Even though he dodged that bullet, Helling still gave up three home runs, raising his season total to 27, the second highest in the American League.
Helling, who raised his record to 7-8, also gave up four homers against the Red Sox on Sunday. In these two starts against the top offense in baseball, Helling has allowed nine runs - all of them via the long ball.
"It's frustrating," Helling said. "It's nothing new for me; I'm a fly-ball pitcher. What gets frustrating is I feel like I threw the ball really well. It seems like every mistake goes over the wall. Can you mix in a single or a double once in a while?"
Mora's hand checked again
Melvin Mora remained in Baltimore yesterday to have a CT scan taken on his right hand, and once again, the results showed no structural damage. He will rejoin the team today in Boston, and the Orioles have their fingers crossed that he'll be ready to play when he's eligible to come off the disabled list next weekend.
"Doctors wanted to do a CT scan, just to eliminate everything," Hargrove said. "The MRI showed nothing, just a couple small areas of inflammation. [X-rays] showed no broken bones, and they just wanted to check that out to be sure because he's been complaining of being sore for so long."
Decision day for Surhoff
B.J. Surhoff is eligible to come off the DL today, but after testing his left quadriceps muscle with some running drills yesterday morning, he was non-committal about whether he'll be ready.
"I'm definitely feeling better," Surhoff said.
The Orioles will put Surhoff through a battery of tests today before clearing him to play.
Brook Fordyce hit his first triple as an Oriole in the seventh inning of Game 1, a two-run liner into the right-field corner. His previous triple came July 22, 2000, as a member of the Chicago White Sox. Orioles third base coach Tom Trebelhorn joked with Fordyce that he should have had an inside-the-park home run, as Boston right fielder Trot Nixon missed on a diving attempt to catch the ball.
"Tell Trebs to take care of coaching third base, and I'll take care of the humor," said Fordyce, who went 3-for-4, raising his average to .278.
Besides shutting down 2002 first-round draft pick Adam Loewen, the Orioles have taken Rommie Lewis, their 2001 fourth-round pick, out of the starting rotation at Single-A Frederick.
Lewis, 20, went 4-9 with a 3.27 ERA in 20 starts, spanning 104 2/3 innings, but the Orioles moved him to the bullpen to prevent the kind of arm injury that has derailed the progress of prospects such as Erik Bedard and Richard Stahl.
"You can't be too cautious with these guys," said Orioles minor-league director Doc Rodgers. "Especially when they're 19, 20 and 21 years old."
Pulling Lewis from Frederick's rotation made room for left-hander Ryan Hannaman, who was acquired from the San Francisco Giants on July 31.