- The Washington Times - Monday, June 25, 2001


BALTIMORE As he prepared to rattle off the names and status of the walking wounded that have littered the Baltimore Orioles' roster in the past week, manager Mike Hargrove looked like a weary man.
"I'm kind of tired of talking about our injuries," he said before yesterday's game against the Chicago White Sox. "It starts sounding like an excuse, and I don't want that."
Four hours and an 8-2 loss to the White Sox later, Hargrove had no choice but to give another injury briefing, this time on starting pitcher Josh Towers.
The right-hander, who had become a prime candidate to win American League Rookie of the Month honors for June, was knocked out of yesterday's game at Camden Yards in the sixth inning after taking a hard grounder off his pitching hand. Towers' early departure did nothing to help relieve a Baltimore bullpen that entered the weekend in trouble and left it nearly in shambles.
X-rays taken on Towers' hand came back negative, but the 24-year-old remained in Baltimore last night to see a hand specialist while the rest of the team headed on a seven-game trip that begins tonight in Toronto.
The Orioles began the day with five members of their 25-man roster unavailable to play due to various injuries or overwork shortstop Brian Roberts (strained neck), outfielder Mike Kinkade (jammed left thumb) and relief pitchers B.J. Ryan (sore left elbow), Calvin Maduro (strained groin) and Mike Trombley (overwork) in addition to the three regulars recently placed on the disabled list shortstop Mike Bordick (separated right shoulder), outfielder Chris Richard (bruised right knee) and pitcher Pat Hentgen (sprained elbow ligament).
Towers' injury forced Hargrove to go to his bone-dry bullpen early, with Chuck McElroy and John Parrish not up to the challenge. What had been a 3-2 lead for Chicago (with Baltimore getting its runs on back-to-back second-inning homers by Melvin Mora and Delino DeShields) turned into a blowout, leaving the Orioles six games under .500. It also led to Parrish's demotion to Class AAA Rochester 24 days after his promotion to the majors.
"We can't let ourselves get discouraged by games like today," Hargrove said, "because all that bull you have to put up with now at some point in time will pay off … hopefully."
Towers (5-2), the Orioles' latest feel-good story of the year, had given up a total of five runs in his first five major league starts. The White Sox touched him up for that many runs (four of them earned) yesterday alone, making his 5 1/3-inning outing all the tougher to swallow.
With a runner on first and one out in the top of the sixth, Chicago's Jeff Liefer hit a sharp grounder up the middle that struck Towers on the back of his right hand between the thumb and forefinger. He retrieved the ball and tried to get the force out at second base, but his throw sailed into center field.
After a brief consultation with Hargrove and Baltimore trainer Richie Bancells, Towers went back to the mound to attempt a warm-up toss. Unable to squeeze the ball without feeling a sharp pain, though, he never got a throw off, other than to toss the ball underhanded to Hargrove as he retreated to the dugout.
He left the ballpark before the game was over to see the hand specialist, "just to dot all the I's and cross all the T's," as Hargrove put it, though his status remains uncertain.
"I started to say we anticipate nothing being wrong with him, but we'll just wait and see," Hargrove said. "Every time I've said that, it seems like something crops up."
Since returning to the bullpen after a failed attempt as a starter, McElroy had become a reliable arm to go to for an extended number of innings. But he was instantly greeted by a two-run double off the bat of Royce Clayton yesterday, followed by three walks and a two-run single. He was pulled amid a chorus of boos from the crowd of 40,996, having given up three runs and five hits in his last inning of work (spanning two outings).
"That wasn't me today," McElroy said. "I don't know who the heck it was, but it wasn't me. I should have got that loss today, not Josh. He pitched his butt off and kept us in the game, and I didn't pitch like Chuck McElroy is supposed to pitch."
Parrish did provide 3 1/3 desperately needed innings in relief for Hargrove, but he continued to struggle with his command, walking three batters before learning of his demotion.
"Sometimes I have that control, sometimes I don't," said Parrish, who had a 6.75 ERA and nine walks in 9 1/3 innings with the Orioles. "But I'll just go down there to work on it. I'm fine."
Searching for anyone with a fresh arm, Baltimore pulled Rochester right-hander Jay Spurgeon off his scheduled start last night and will have him in the bullpen and available tonight. Spurgeon is the fifth relief pitcher the Orioles have called up from the minors in the last month, following Parrish, Leslie Brea (who was sent back down two days later), Maduro and Chad Paronto.
"Ninety-nine percent of the time when a team finds itself in a rebuilding situation, there is a lot of this," Hargrove said. "The reason you're rebuilding is because you don't have a lot of established stars. It's never fun to do, but that's part of the growing pains, and I do mean pains."

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