Pitchers' release puts Devil Rays on the fast track


ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Orioles have enough trouble beating the Tampa Bay Devil Rays without getting lured into a track meet. How many losses can this team handle in one series? The Devil Rays set a franchise record yesterday with six stolen bases, all coming against backup catcher Robert Machado, in a 6-5, 10-inning victory over the Orioles.

None of them seemed to be his fault.

"It's a combination of those guys running well and our pitchers being slow to the plate," said manger Mike Hargrove. "Your release time has to be quicker to be able to defend against guys who can run like that."

Carl Crawford tied Brent Abernathy's club record with three steals, the first two coming against Orioles starter Rick Helling. Crawford leads the American League with 37.

Damian Rolls, Rocco Baldelli and Julio Lugo each swiped one.

Machado said the Devil Rays' success rate was "all a matter of timing." The pitchers took too long getting the ball to home plate and became too predictable before delivering it, allowing the runners to time them and get good jumps.

"Anybody that's kind of slow to the plate, and there are good runners on base, there's a very good chance they're going to get the steal, even if you have a good-throwing catcher," Machado said. "You could have Pudge [Ivan Rodriguez] back there, but if he's not given a chance to throw, I don't think he's going to get anybody.

"If you go out there and give them the same look and the same move to home, they're going to get comfortable. I made all good throws, but I couldn't get anybody. I'm not pointing fingers. It can happen to anyone. But all I can do is keep throwing. My job is to throw it, and I was doing that. I don't feel frustrated."

Tampa Bay leads the American League with 105 steals, so the Orioles haven't been the only team to get left in the dust.

Mora still sore

His right hand still too sore to swing a bat, Orioles left fielder Melvin Mora has been prescribed another set of anti-inflammatory drugs and will attempt to hit soft tosses again during the homestand, which begins tonight with a make-up game against the New York Yankees.

Mora, who is eligible to come off the disabled list Saturday, hasn't batted since July 27. He pinch-ran four nights later in Minnesota.

The injury, to a tendon between his pinkie and ring fingers, limited Mora to one swing Tuesday in the indoor cage.

"I didn't keep going because it was still bad," he said. "Not like before, but still bad."

Meanwhile, outfielder Marty Cordova did some throwing yesterday and hit in the cage, but the Orioles have no timetable for his return.

With two of their left fielders injured and B.J. Surhoff playing first base while Jeff Conine is out, Larry Bigbie started his 36th game with the Orioles yesterday. All but one have come in left field.

Bigbie is 5-for-27 in his past seven games, though he homered Tuesday and had a run-scoring double yesterday.

Ainsworth update

When the Orioles returned to Camden Yards last night, they expected to find the results of Kurt Ainsworth's magnetic resonance imaging test and other medical information sent by the San Francisco Giants, who included him in a three-player package for Sidney Ponson at the non-waiver trade deadline.

Ainsworth remains on the disabled list with a fractured shoulder blade, but he's on a throwing program that increased his tosses to 120 feet yesterday after starting at 60. He will extend them to 150 tomorrow.

Ainsworth also simulated his delivery while standing on the left field line, allowing him to throw about 12 "pitches" from a flat surface.

"That's just to make sure my arm is strong when I come back," he said.

Barring any setbacks, the Orioles probably will allow Ainsworth to pitch next month.

"That's the goal right now," he said, "at least at some point."

Hargrove said having Ainsworth pitch "is still a possibility." The Orioles already have gotten two quality starts from left-hander Damian Moss, also acquired in the trade, but minor league pitcher Ryan Hannaman struggled with his command while walking five in two innings in his first appearance at Single-A Frederick.

Good news on Hairston

Second baseman Jerry Hairston, who has been performing agility drills while rehabbing his broken right foot in Arizona, is expected to rejoin the team this week.

Mike Flanagan, the Orioles' vice president of baseball operations, said the reports on Hairston indicate he's doing "remarkably well."

"I'd think he's getting close," Flanagan said. "But as far as a target date [for his return], we're not sure."

Gredvig rehabbing

Doug Gredvig, who began to emerge as a rare power prospect in the farm system before this season, has began an injury rehab assignment with the Gulf Coast League team in Sarasota, Fla.

Gredvig, who left Double-A Bowie in May because of a back injury, was 4-for-10 with three RBIs in three games with the rookie-league Orioles.

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