Camden closure for Bechler widow


On the six-month anniversary of her husband's death, Kiley Bechler spread the ashes of former Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler on the Camden Yards mound and both bullpen mounds during a quiet ceremony after yesterday's game.

Steve Bechler died on Feb. 17 from complications related to heatstroke suffered during a spring training workout in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

"I think this is where he would want to be," said Kiley, who made the trip from Oregon along with her nearly 4-month-old daughter Hailie, her grandmother and younger sister.

"It kind of adds a little bit of closure to everything that's been going on and brings a little bit of joy to a pretty sad situation."

Orioles vice president of baseball operations Mike Flanagan, manager Mike Hargrove, pitching coach Mark Wiley, first base coach Rick Dempsey and bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks attended the ceremony, along with Larry Bigbie, Jay Gibbons and David Segui. All three players were in uniform.

"It was nice to have people who were important to him and big in his life. They were a big part of making him who he was," Kiley said.

"This was something that Kiley felt she wanted to do and needed to do, and maybe give her a little bit of closure," Flanagan said.

Kiley also considered spreading the ashes on Bechler's Mustang League field in Medford, Ore., but decided Camden Yards was a more suitable location.

"This was a good choice, a good place for him to be," she said. "This is what he wanted. This was his life's dream, and a good place to end it."

No match for 'Moose'

Trying to engage in a pitcher's duel yesterday with former Oriole Mike Mussina, Rodrigo Lopez had a near-empty holster and a permanent seat on the bench by the fifth inning. So much for a fair fight.

Lopez left the game after the fourth with the New York Yankees leading 4-0 and Mussina providing another cruel reminder of what the Orioles once had atop their rotation.

With his pitch count at 73, Lopez was removed because Hargrove and Wiley sensed it was only going to get worse.

"The second inning was the only easy inning he had," Hargrove said. "We just felt like Rodrigo had been on the edge the whole day, and finally stepped off."

The Yankees scored three runs in the fourth, one on an infield hit when Lopez couldn't field a one-hopper by Aaron Boone. The ball deflected off his closed glove as he tried to maintain his balance and rolled behind second base.

"I should have caught that ball and thrown to home plate," he said.

Said Hargrove: "Rodrigo falls off the mound terribly and it's certainly something that we've targeted for him to work on."

The scoring damage against Lopez (5-8) would have been worse if center fielder Luis Matos hadn't thrown out Karim Garcia at the plate to end the third.

Lopez allowed six hits and walked three.

Mora, Conine on mend

By later this week, the Orioles could have Jeff Conine and Melvin Mora back in the lineup.

Conine said he'll be ready to swing a bat tomorrow, "and if all goes well, I'll play Wednesday."

He's missed nine straight games because of bursitis in his right biceps, but hasn't gone on the disabled list.

"I'm not saying it's 100 percent normal yet," he said, "but I think I'm close enough to start swinging."

Mora took batting practice before Saturday's game and didn't experience any pain in his bruised right hand. The Orioles want to send him on a brief rehab assignment before activating him from the disabled list.

Replay floors Cust, too

As Jack Cust sat in a Baltimore restaurant after Saturday's game, trying to concentrate on his food and not one of the most embarrassing moments of his professional career, he glanced at a television and saw the replay of his rundown that ended with a belly flop about 10 feet from home plate, and a tag that completed the Orioles' 5-4, 12-inning loss.

Make that two failed escapes.

Cust tried to stop while rounding third base on Bigbie's double, but his cleats slipped in the wet grass and he fell on his back. He still could have scored in a subsequent rundown because the Yankees didn't cover home plate. The only person in front of him was Jose Morban, who was waving him in, but Cust never got there.

"I was trying to run harder than I had left in the tank," he said. "I was still mad after the game, but it was kind of funny to look at."

Cust was shocked that pitcher Jeff Nelson or first baseman Nick Johnson wasn't standing in his way as he made another turn for home.

"That's why I think my whole body just went into overload," he said. "I tried to run as fast as I could and my legs, at that point I don't think they could move as fast as my brain was moving."

Yesterday's game did little to improve his disposition. Cust struck out in all three at-bats.

Auction is a success

The Orioles wives' second silent auction yesterday raised $34,000 for Pathfinders for Autism, raising the total to more than $56,000.

A Joe DiMaggio autographed baseball, donated by Conine, netted $1,500.

Conine is involved with the late Hall of Famer's Children's Hospital in South Florida.

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