- The Washington Times - Friday, April 19, 2002

NEW YORK If there has been one truly encouraging aspect to the Baltimore Orioles' otherwise troubling first month, it has been the pleasantly surprising return of pitcher Scott Erickson from elbow ligament replacement surgery.
That no one seems to be bringing up Erickson's August 2000 surgical procedure anymore speaks volumes about the manner in which the 34-year-old right-hander has returned to the playing field.
So when Erickson struggled through his first poor start of the season last night five runs allowed in 4⅓ innings during the Orioles' 8-4 loss to the New York Yankees there were no excuses. His surgically repaired elbow is fine; he just didn't pitch particularly well.
"His stuff just wasn't very good," said manager Mike Hargrove, whose team fell to 4-11 heading into a three-game weekend series at Tampa Bay. "It wasn't a good night for Scotty."
In his first three starts, Erickson put plenty of runners on base at least seven each time out. But he managed to spread those runners around, induced several double plays off his sinker and consequently allowed only six earned runs in 21 innings.
Last night, though, the hits came in bunches, Erickson's sinker was flat, and the Baltimore ace suffered for it. New York's first three batters singled in the first, with Alfonso Soriano scoring on Derek Jeter's hit. Another single by Jorge Posada, the fourth of the inning, brought Nick Johnson home with the Yankees' second run.
Things only got worse for Erickson. The right-hander did not walk a batter in his last two starts, but he put four men on base last night, including Robin Ventura to lead off the fourth. After a single by John Vander Wal, Erickson grooved a 3-1 pitch to Shane Spencer, and New York's No.9 hitter crushed it into the Yankees bullpen for a three-run homer.
"I tried to throw him a good, low strike and tried to get a ground ball, but he was sitting fastball and he hit it," Erickson said. "I was trying to go down and away, and it caught enough of the plate that he was looking for the right pitch and got it."
Erickson finished out the fourth, but after he surrendered a walk and single with one out in the fifth, Hargrove decided that was enough. Rick Bauer walked in from the bullpen and Erickson (1-2) sprinted back to the dugout after the shortest outing of his season (though he threw a whopping 109 pitches).
"I threw too many balls basically," he said. "I threw 109 pitches in less than five innings, which is definitely no way to work yourself through a lineup."
David Wells, on the other hand, pitched quite effectively in his first start at Yankee Stadium since returning to his former club. Greeted with a warm ovation from the assembled crowd of 35,212, the 38-year-old battled through one tough inning but was flawless otherwise in improving his season record to 3-0.
Wells retired the first eight batters but fell into trouble in the fourth inning, when Gary Matthews Jr. singled for his first hit with the Orioles and David Segui followed suit. Up came cleanup hitter Jeff Conine, who hadn't done much over the past 14 games to merit that distinction.
Conine, batting .200 with three RBI entering the game, increased his season run production twofold on one swing, belting a three-run homer to left that gave the Orioles a 3-2 lead. They padded the cushion three batters later when Tony Batista scored on Marty Cordova's groundout but failed to muster any further offense against Wells and closer Mariano Rivera, who pitched a scoreless ninth.
"It's unfortunate when you take a lead like that and go out and give it up within five minutes," Erickson said. "You're letting down the other guys."
Notes First baseman David Segui left in the seventh inning with a sore right knee. Segui, who continues to be bothered by arthritis in his left knee, said he hurt the other one while running out a base hit in the fourth inning and aggravated it further while making a diving stop of a grounder in the fifth. Hargrove said Segui likely will miss tonight's game against the Devil Rays.
"It's actually my good knee or what was my good knee," Segui said. "It doesn't feel very good, but hopefully it's not serious."
Backup catcher Brook Fordyce started last night in place of Geronimo Gil, only the third time in 15 games that Fordyce has cracked the Orioles' lineup. Hargrove said Fordyce was due a start anyways, but Gil's struggles at the plate (recently 2-for-17) and his sore right shoulder made the decision easy. Gil is still feeling the effects of a plate collision with Tampa Bay's Steve Cox on April 10.



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