- The Washington Times - Friday, June 1, 2001

SEATTLE Through the last two months of the 2000 season and the first month and a half of the 2001 season, it usually was safe to assume Ryan Kohlmeier would be pitching for the Baltimore Orioles in the ninth inning of a close or tied game. And on most occasions, the rookie right-hander responded like a bonafide major league closer, earning saves in 19 of 22 opportunities.
But since losing his full-time closing job in favor of manager Mike Hargrove's bullpen-by-committee system, Kohlmeier has yet to appear on the mound in a save situation or even in a tight situation. Instead, the 23-year-old has entered two games in which the Orioles held at least a seven-run lead and two games in which they were behind by at least two.
Another showing along the lines of Wednesday night's disastrous 12-5 loss to the Seattle Mariners in the second of a three-game series at Safeco Field and Kohlmeier might not find himself pitching in any situation for Baltimore.
What had been a tight ballgame for seven innings turned into a Mariners blowout when Kohlmeier was battered for six runs and six hits (five of them for extra bases) in one-third of an inning. When Chad Paronto served up a solo home run in relief of Kohlmeier, Seattle's 5-3 lead had turned into a 12-3 shellacking. Two ninth-inning runs by the Orioles trimmed the final margin.
"I don't know what you can say about it," Kohlmeier said. "I wasn't hitting my spots. It wasn't a night where I was walking anybody, but I was just missing over the middle of the plate with a lot of my pitches. They definitely capitalized on it. It really was just one of those nights."
One of those nights Baltimore may not have the patience to endure again. While the majority of the Orioles' bullpen has been thriving of late (see Mike Trombley, Buddy Groom and B.J. Ryan), Kohlmeier has been collapsing. He entered Wednesday's game with a 4.58 ERA in 18 appearances this season. He left unceremoniously after surrendering a three-run homer to John Olerud that raised his ERA nearly three full points to 7.50.
"It's a funny game," Kohlmeier said. "[Another] night, I could go out, do the exact same thing I did [Wednesday night], throw the exact same pitches in the exact same spots and have a 1-2-3 inning."
Suddenly, the Orioles' once-promising closer of the future could find himself in line for a demotion to the minor leagues. Veteran reliever Alan Mills, out since last fall with a shoulder injury, is expected to begin a rehab assignment in the next week and could be back in a Baltimore uniform before the month is over.
Should that be the case, Hargrove likely will have to send one of his current relievers down to Class AAA Rochester, with Kohlmeier a candidate all of a sudden.
"He never hit his spot," Hargrove said of Wednesday night's performance. "He never got a ball down, he was always pitching behind and they hit the pitches he was throwing up the way you're supposed to hit those kind of pitches."
Up until the forgetful eighth inning, the Orioles stood toe-to-toe with the American League West-leading Mariners, with several opportunities to take the lead. Baltimore racked up 13 hits in the game and had at least one batter reach base in every inning.
But the Orioles were unable to bunch together any hits against Seattle starter John Halama (4-4) and spent the night stranding runner after runner, 12 total by game's end, as they dropped their third straight after winning five in a row and fell to 0-9 all time at Safeco Field.
That foiled an unusual-but-solid start by Jason Johnson, who allowed two earned runs on four hits but uncharacteristically walked six in his six innings of work. Having already maxed out at 109 pitches, Johnson (4-3) was forced to exit before the seventh even though Baltimore trailed only 3-2.
"I will take responsibility for this loss," Johnson said. "If I would have thrown some different pitches, I think the whole outcome of this game would have been different. Two of the walks I had scored. It could have been a whole different ballgame. I could have been in there until the seventh inning or the eighth, saved the bullpen. And I didn't."


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