Pitcher Liz improves mechanics, control

The Baltimore Sun

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- His front shoulder no longer is flying open toward first base. His delivery is shorter and his windup more fluid. Through the first 3 1/2 weeks of spring training, Orioles right-hander Radhames Liz has looked like a different pitcher from the one who last year posted a 6.93 ERA in nine games.

"His mechanics are much better," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "We noticed it when he came into spring training. He's throwing more strikes. He's throwing more strikes with his breaking pitch, and he didn't do that when we had him last year."

Despite pitching four scoreless innings so far, the Orioles' top pitching prospect in Baseball America's rankings is likely headed to Triple-A Norfolk to join the Tides' rotation. But Trembley said the organization hasn't ruled out Liz as a reliever.

"I think there's some thought that perhaps down the road he could go either way," Trembley said.

Said Liz: "I'll go wherever they want me. Relieve, start, I don't care."

Liz reminds bullpen coach Alan Dunn of one of his former pupils, Chicago Cubs right-hander Carlos Marmol, who made the transformation from starter and was one of the most dominant relievers in the league last year.

"Both of them have that type of power arm," Dunn said. "It's very aggressive and power-type stuff. Those are the kinds of things that jump out at me when you see both of them throw - their tempo and the way they attack the hitters."

Liz worked hard on his mechanics in the Dominican Winter League and said he's pleased with the results.

"It's not a big change," he said. "I know what I was doing wrong. I'm doing it the way I want now."

Bug bites again

Luke Scott left camp in the morning after complaining of flulike symptoms and was examined by a local doctor. "I guess it was my turn," he said.

The list of Orioles who have been bitten by the bug, to varying degrees, includes Jay Payton, Chris Roberson, Tike Redman, hitting coach Terry Crowley, first base coach John Shelby and instructor Scott McGregor.

"It's actually gotten better than it was. It just seems to be a different guy," Trembley said.

Endorsement from Torre

New Dodgers manager Joe Torre said yesterday that he could see a difference in the Orioles under Trembley last year. "I think Dave got their attention," Torre said. "It is tough to take over a new team. It's tough to change everything while the season is going on. They seemed to play a more upbeat kind of game."

Trembley is entering his first full season as a major league manager, but Torre said experience - or a lack of it - would not be an issue. "He's probably more adept at instructing young players, which you're doing more and more at this level," Torre said.

Around the horn

Scott Moore, who missed another game because of a lower abdominal strain, did some treadmill work and hopes to play later this week. "We're going to increase his activities," Trembley said. ... George Sherrill threw two innings for the first time. ... Brian Roberts stole two more bases, giving him seven this spring.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com roch.kubatko@baltsun.com

Sun columnist Peter Schmuck contributed to this article.

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