- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 18, 2002

BALTIMORE Mike Bordick spent the last month patiently waiting for his fractured right kneecap to heal, but you just knew the veteran Baltimore Orioles shortstop was itching to get back on the field.
"The last couple days, I've had the butterflies about this," said Bordick, who went on the disabled list July 16. "I get nervous for every game, but this kind of stuff when you miss a month and watch your teammates running out there every night, you just want to be out there so bad."
Finally given the green light last night, Bordick released all that pent-up anticipation in the form of one really big hit. His seventh-inning RBI single gave the Orioles the lead for good and gave John Stephens his first major league victory as Baltimore came from behind to beat the Detroit Tigers 7-3.
Activated earlier in the day, Bordick displayed his usual rock-solid defense at shortstop all night. And with the game on the line in the seventh, Baltimore's No.9 hitter grounded a single through the hole to score Marty Cordova with the eventual winning run.
"I didn't honestly think [manager Mike Hargrove] was going to let me hit in that situation, because I hadn't faced live pitching," Bordick said. "But I hustled up there before he could pull me back."
Bordick's hit off reliever Fernando Rodney was the high point in a four-run inning for the Orioles. Cordova and Geronimo Gil had tied the game with RBI singles of their own, and Jerry Hairston added to the cushion with another single to left.
Two more runs in the eighth only added to the misery for the Tigers, who watched as a certain victory vanished into the steamy Baltimore night.
The Orioles' come-from-behind victory helped erase the sting of a 6-5 loss to the last-place Tigers the night before. The bigger winner, however, was Stephens.
Making his Camden Yards debut after three straight starts on the road, Stephens was at his soft-tossing best, leaving the Tigers completely off-balance all night. The rookie right-hander allowed just three runs on six hits in seven innings while striking out eight, but it took his teammates' seventh-inning rally to get him off the hook.
Despite Stephens' disastrous introduction to the major leagues (nine runs allowed in three innings at Tampa Bay), the Orioles didn't immediately give up on the 22-year-old Australian. They knew Stephens' track record a 47-28 record and 2.80 ERA in 5 minor league seasons and they were curious to see if he could enjoy that same success in the big leagues.
Stephens bounced back to pitch effectively last Sunday in Detroit, though he took a tough 2-1 loss. And he looked even better last night, making just one mistake in the game: a fourth-inning fastball down the middle to Carlos Pena, who crushed it for a two-run homer.
Otherwise, Stephens (1-2) brilliantly mixed his low-80s fastball with his low-70s change-up and his low-60s curveball. The Tigers were at his mercy, never quite sure what to expect next from the young right-hander, who has erased all memories of his inauspicious debut.
"I knew it was going to be that way after that first game," he said. "That wasn't me out there on the mound. I was just caught up with everything."
Despite his below-average velocity, Stephens is actually a strikeout pitcher who ranked second in the International League before his promotion. And unlike most strikeout artists who have a go-to pitch with two strikes, Stephens will throw anything at any time. Of his eight strikeouts last night, two came on fastballs, four on curveballs and two on changeups.
"You've got to sit on those off-speed pitches," Hargrove said. "And that's a difficult adjustment to make, because you're trained to sit on the fastball and adjust to everything else."
Still, Stephens was in line for another heartbreaking loss when he retreated to the dugout in the seventh because the Orioles had been unable to put anything together against Detroit left-hander Mark Redman.
Redman (7-11) throws just a bit harder than Stephens, and he was pitching just a bit better last night until a freak slip on the mound ruined everything.
Redman was cruising along, giving up just two hits in his first six innings, but upon throwing ball four to Gary Matthews Jr. to lead off the seventh, his plant foot slipped out from under him, tweaking his right knee. After a brief consultation with the Tigers' trainer, Redman remained in the game.
He was clearly affected by the mishap, though. After striking out Tony Batista, Redman proceeded to give up back-to-back singles, and Detroit manager Luis Pujols immediately went to his bullpen.
The Tigers lost the game just as quickly, though Redman's injury was not serious and he is not expected to miss his next start.
To make room for Bordick on the 25-man roster, the Orioles optioned infielder Jose Leon to Class AAA Rochester. Leon batted .230 in 26 games, spending most of his time at first base even though he is a natural third baseman.

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