Ainsworth progresses, but not to O's rotation

THE BALTIMORE SUN

No matter how Orioles manager Mike Hargrove arranges his rotation during the last two weeks of the season, it doesn't appear that Kurt Ainsworth will be in it.

Ainsworth, the centerpiece of the package acquired from the San Francisco Giants on July 31 for Sidney Ponson, is likely to pitch in relief once he's activated from the disabled list.

"I would say the chances of him starting are slim," Hargrove said.

Ainsworth is getting closer to his Orioles debut while recovering from a fractured right shoulder blade. He threw another simulated game yesterday that consisted of 45 pitches over three innings.

"He said it felt better this time than last time, which is good to hear," Hargrove said, adding that at least three days will pass before Ainsworth becomes available.

"The ball comes out of his hand good. He's throwing all his pitches and he's pain-free. It's just a matter of him getting his mechanics in line to where he doesn't have to think about it."

The Orioles also anticipate having Rick Bauer available again before the season ends.

Bauer was shut down with a mild case of tendinitis in his right shoulder. He hasn't pitched since Aug. 30 in Seattle, when he allowed the first seven batters to reach, but he threw on the side Monday.

"I don't know how far away he is from being ready," Hargrove said, "but I think we'll see him before the year's out."

Swann homers in debut

Luis Matos ran some sprints in the outfield yesterday, with assistant trainer Brian Ebel keeping close watch, to test his strained left hamstring.

Matos was removed from Friday's game in Toronto and remained out of the lineup last night. He's supposed to run the bases today, which will give a better idea of when he'll return.

"It's going to be uncomfortable the last two weeks," he said, "but at least I'll be able to play."

With Matos unavailable and Melvin Mora out for the season with a knee injury, Pedro Swann received his first start since the Orioles purchased his contract from Triple-A Ottawa before Monday's game. Swann started in left field against Roger Clemens, the first time they've met in any game, including exhibitions.

"I'm just looking forward to getting a start," said Swann, before hitting his first career home run off Clemens in the seventh inning. "It wouldn't matter who it was. I'm just excited to play."

Julio from stretch

Looking to become more consistent with his mechanics, closer Jorge Julio plans to pitch from the stretch the rest of the season, no matter the situation.

The method worked on Sunday, when Julio tossed a perfect ninth for his 33rd save in the Orioles' 5-3 win over Toronto.

"It's more comfortable for me," said Julio, who's been putting in extra time with coach Mark Wiley. "I can throw strikes and my mechanics are better."

Julio served up a home run to Boston's Bill Mueller on Sept. 8 in a 13-10 win, but he's getting better results than last month.

He allowed nine runs (six earned) and seven hits - including four homers - in consecutive outings Aug. 15 and 19.

Showcasing the future

Ripken Baseball will conduct its first college and professional baseball showcase Friday through Sunday at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen.

The event, which will feature instructional sessions from Bill Ripken, gives high school players a chance to be seen by all levels of college coaches and major league scouts.

"We have been talking about getting into the showcase business for a long time," said Ripken. "This gives us an opportunity to impact some young well- known talent and present opportunities to some kids who for whatever reason might have slipped through the cracks."

"Schools agreeing to participate include Maryland, Alabama, LSU, Indiana, North Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech and N.C. State. Most major league teams will be represented.

The showcase costs $350. Registration is available online at www.ripkenbaseball.com or by calling 1-800-486-0850.

Et cetera

Entering the game, Clemens had a 5-6 career mark at Camden Yards - the only AL park where he owned a losing record. ... If tomorrow's game is postponed because of Hurricane Isabel, it will be made up next weekend in New York as part of a doubleheader. Joe Foss, the team's CEO, has been in contact with the commissioner's office and Yankees officials.

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