- The Washington Times - Monday, April 3, 2000

No one can accuse the Major League Baseball schedule makers of not having a sense of humor or a sense of irony.

Weather permitting, the Baltimore Orioles open the 2000 season today against the Cleveland Indians, a matchup that doesn't lack for subplots because of the presence of Mike Hargrove.

The Orioles' new skipper spent the last 20 years with the Indians as a player, coach and then manager. But despite leading the Indians to five straight playoff appearances, including two trips to the World Series, Hargrove was fired in October after Cleveland blew a two-game lead and was eliminated from the playoffs by the Boston Red Sox.

Hargrove still has deep ties to the Indians and the Cleveland area. His family has not relocated from the Cleveland suburb of Richfield, though that is partly because his youngest two children are still in school there, and he has close relationships to myriad members of the Indians organization.

Suffice to say, he won't need to rely too heavily on a scouting report.

"Yeah, I'm curious to read ours to see if our scouts think the same thing about the Indians that I did," Hargrove said. "I know no one wants to hear that it's just another Opening Day but it is. Do I have a lot of friends on the other team? Of course. I know that makes good stuff in the papers but it doesn't really matter to us. The important thing for this ballclub is to get off to a good start and we need to go out there and win as many games in this series as possible."

If today's game isn't rained out, the series will resume Wednesday and Thursday evenings. Tomorrow is supposed to be an off day though it could be used as a makeup date.

"It's obviously a good test," Hargrove said. "They're a good team with a history of recent success and it would be good to get off to a good start against them."

Two of Hargrove's lieutenants in Cleveland, Brian Graham and Jeff Newman, followed him to Baltimore and have similar emotions about the series.

"There will be a lot of people in the other dugout that I'm very close to and that Mike and Jeff are close to," said Graham, the Orioles' offensive and defensive coordinator. "You can't be with an organization that long and not have friendships. I think we'd each like to win this one a little more but we can't lose sight that it's just one game and one series in a very long season. We all need to focus on the Baltimore Orioles and not worry about who we're playing."

In the opener, the Indians will start 18-game winner Bartolo Colon against Orioles ace Mike Mussina.

"You can bet we're gonna tell our hitters everything we know about him," Newman said.

With the Orioles starters healthy, Hargrove will bat the Orioles' in the following order. Center fielder Brady Anderson will lead off followed by second baseman Delino DeShields. Left fielder B.J. Surhoff hits third with right fielder Albert Belle hitting cleanup. Hitting fifth will be designated hitter Harold Baines followed by third baseman Cal Ripken, first baseman Will Clark, catcher Charles Johnson and shortstop Mike Bordick.

Before turning his attention to the Indians, Hargrove had to make his final player moves to pare the roster to 25. As expected, veteran outfielders Wayne Kirby and Derrick May were demoted to Class AAA Rochester. With the Orioles' crowded outfield, both players were long shots to make the major league roster and neither Kirby nor May was able to win a job by hitting .178 and .250, respectively.

In another expected move, backup catcher Greg Myers was placed on the 15-day disabled list because of a pulled hamstring suffered after hitting a home run in Saturday's exhibition finale in Chattanooga, Tenn. Myers will be replaced by Willie Morales, a veteran of seven minor league seasons who has never played in the majors. Morales, 27, spent all of his career in the Oakland organization until joining the Orioles as a minor league free agent in December.

With Myers and starter Johnson getting most of the playing time, Morales made only one start during the Grapefruit League season but made the most of his at-bats, going 8-for-16.

In a procedural move to make room for Morales on the 40-man roster, the Orioles out-righted the contract of pitcher Richard Negrette to Rochester. Today's predicted rain could cause the Orioles to make another roster move earlier than they'd hoped and at the same time, force them to adjust their pitching schedule.

Mussina will pitch the opener and again on Saturday. If the opener is postponed until tomorrow, Mussina's second start will be pushed back to Sunday.

Because tomorrow was originally scheduled to be an off day, the Orioles didn't need a fifth starter until Sunday. But if today's game is rained out, they'll need a fifth starter Saturday. Jose Mercedes, who came to camp on the 40-man roster, is the Orioles fifth starter. He's not on the Opening Day roster but the Orioles originally planned on activating him Sunday morning. Obviously, if he's needed earlier, that will change.

When he's activated, the Orioles will need to create room on their 40-man roster by out-righting another player.

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