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Short notice, short O's start


ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Even in a humiliating late July blowout loss to the basement-dwelling Tampa Bay Devil Rays, the Orioles can glean key baseball lessons.

Orioles rookie Adam Loewen, for instance, learned Friday night that he needs to keep hitters guessing the second time through the order.

Scratched starter Erik Bedard learned he shouldn't eat raw fish the night before he pitches.

And the Orioles' front office may have learned the most important lesson of all. When a National League team in a pennant race cuts a pitcher and is willing to eat the remaining $22 million on his contract just so he won't set foot on its mound again, chances are he's not going to be much help in the American League East.

Yes, even in a 14-7 bashing by a Devil Rays' team that scored only 10 runs total in their past four games, baseball can be educational for the Orioles (44-54).

Educational, and more painful than a bout of food poisoning.

"I was working on four Tums," joked Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo. "It was a four Tums game. I really could have used two more, but I toughed it out."

All in all, it was a difficult predicament for the Orioles, and especially emergency starter Russ Ortiz, who was pitching on two days' rest. After throwing 45 pitches on Tuesday, he learned four hours before game time that he was needed again. He took the mound without complaint, but he couldn't reverse his season of struggle. After failing to get an out, Ortiz is now 0-2 with a 13.50 ERA in four starts with the Orioles and 0-7 overall.

"He was willing to take the ball for us," Perlozzo said. "We got ourselves in a situation where we didn't have much of a choice. He was willing to go out there for us and was anxious to do so. It just didn't work out."

The nightmare at Tropicana Field actually began at 3 a.m. for the Orioles, when Bedard, the scheduled starter, awoke sick in his hotel room after eating a sushi dinner here late Thursday night.

"I've had it before so I knew it was food poisoning, but last time I had it for like three days," said Bedard, whose next start was moved to today.

"I could have been out there [on the mound]," Bedard said. "But they didn't want to take a chance of me going three [innings] and then falling apart."

In comparison, three innings from Bedard would have been a quality start.

Claimed off waivers from Arizona June 25 after a rough year and a half with the Diamondbacks, Ortiz, a former 21-game winner, had his last outing cut short in the third inning due to a rain delay at Camden Yards. Unfortunately for Ortiz, Friday night's game was held in a dome.

He threw 34 pitches and faced six batters in the first inning. Two singled. One walked. Two doubled. Carl Crawford homered. All six runners scored.

"Coming in, mentally I felt great, I felt loose," Ortiz said. "I just wasn't good."

Loewen entered to face the seventh batter of the first, allowing a two-run single to Travis Lee before escaping the inning with the Orioles trailing 6-2. The Orioles scratched out a run in the third, and Loewen pitched effectively until the fourth, when Tampa Bay scored five times, including a Jorge Cantu grand slam.

"It is frustrating doing that time and time again," Loewen said about struggling a second time through a batting order. "But it's something I am going to learn."

The Devil Rays (40-57), who had scored just 17 runs in their seven post-All-Star-break games - all losses - weren't finished.

Catcher Dioner Navarro hit a bases-empty homer against Eddy Rodriguez in the fifth and Julio Lugo added a two-run shot against Rodriguez in the seventh.

Amazingly, the night was promising at the start for the Orioles.

Devil Rays pitcher Casey Fossum (4-3) walked leadoff hitter Brian Roberts and second batter Melvin Mora each on four pitches. Fossum didn't throw a strike until his 10th pitch, and Miguel Tejada planted it into the right-center-field gap for a run-scoring double. Two batters later, Mora scored on a Ramon Hernandez sacrifice fly for a 2-0 lead.

The Orioles scored a run each in the sixth and seventh and two in the eighth on a Luis Terrero single, but by then it was too late to remove the sickening feeling from the visitors' dugout.

"You've just got to write that one off," Perlozzo said. "It was an emergency setting that we didn't want to get into. It wasn't planned, but it happened. We just did the best we could with what we had at the time. It didn't work out."

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