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Hargrove decides Helling will keep spot in rotation

ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. — ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - After giving some consideration to making a change in his rotation, Orioles manager Mike Hargrove apparently has decided to let Rick Helling start tomorrow against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays at Tropicana Field.

Helling has allowed seven home runs in his past two starts, and 27 for the season - tied for second among American League pitchers. Hargrove indicated Sunday he wanted to speak with club executives Jim Beattie and Mike Flanagan and pitching coach Mark Wiley about giving left-hander Eric DuBose more starts, which would come at Helling's expense.

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Hargrove said yesterday that Helling remained the starter for tomorrow's game. Pressed on whether those plans could change, he said, "No, I think it's pretty definite."

The Orioles sent DuBose to Triple-A Ottawa this season while converting him into a starter, a process that began late in spring training after he was reassigned to the minor league complex in Sarasota, Fla.

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He's made two spot starts with the Orioles this season, allowing two runs in 6 1/3 innings against Kansas City on May 4, and one run in six innings against Boston Friday.

Before last night, he had not permitted a run in five relief appearances since being recalled on July 22. That streak ended in the eighth inning when Travis Lee's two-out, two-run homer tied the game, 3-3. DuBose had retired his first five hitters before Rocco Baldelli's single preceded Lee's blast.

"Anytime you get one of these kids who's pitched the way DuBose has pitched, it leaves open that question, but Rick has pitched well," Hargrove said before the game.

"While he's had some outings that haven't been real good, for the most part he's thrown well."

Helling, who signed a minor league contract during the winter, apparently has cleared waivers and can be traded before the Aug. 31 deadline for setting playoff rosters.

The San Francisco Giants had a scout at last night's game, but they don't seem to be interested in Helling. They might be more intrigued by Pat Hentgen.

Johnson's leg pain worsens

The soreness in Jason Johnson's left leg that forced him out of Sunday's game in Boston has gotten worse, preventing him from doing any running yesterday but most likely having no effect on his next start.

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Johnson has a dark bruise inside his left thigh near the kneecap. He said the area swelled last night, which concerned him, but most of it was gone yesterday.

A sharp bouncer from Bill Mueller hit Johnson in the first inning, but he stayed in the game until completing the sixth.

If able to start Friday, Johnson will be seeking his career-best 11th victory. He was 10-12 in 2001.

Bedard gets an audience

Left-hander Eric Bedard, pitching again after having ligament-transplant surgery last September, threw in the bullpen yesterday for about 10 minutes and is scheduled to make his third start Thursday with the Gulf Coast League team in Sarasota, Fla.

Flanagan pulled up a chair and watched Bedard. Wiley stood behind the mound, and Hargrove joined the group later.

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Bedard, regarded as the organization's top prospect, tossed three innings Saturday for the Rookie-level Orioles. He allowed one run and two hits, and struck out four.

"I'm just trying to get my feet wet and get some innings under my belt, and then start fresh next year," said Bedard, whose fastball topped out at 93 mph over the weekend.

"I've been feeling great, maybe better than before. I just hope it continues and doesn't change."

Meanwhile, former No. 1 draft pick Beau Hale continues to rehab in Sarasota and is expected to pitch in the fall instructional league.

Hale, the 14th overall selection in 2000, had shoulder surgery this spring to repair a torn rotator cuff and fraying in his labrum.

Maine stays on roll

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John Maine, the Orioles' sixth-round selection in the 2002 draft, threw five shutout innings against Wilmington in the first game of Sunday's doubleheader before allowing two runs in the sixth. He didn't get the decision in Single-A Frederick's 3-2 loss.

Maine is 3-1 with a 3.63 ERA in eight starts at Frederick.

Around the horn

Melvin Mora, on the disabled list with a bruised right hand, will attempt to hit some soft tosses in the indoor cage today. He's eligible to be activated on Saturday, but the club remains uncertain he'll be ready. ... The Devil Rays recalled outfielder Jason Tyner from Triple-A Durham and outrighted infielder/outfielder Jeff Leifer to the Bulls. Tyner is batting .288 in 32 games with the Devil Rays.


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