- The Washington Times - Friday, July 19, 2002

TORONTO Sam Perlozzo wants to be a major league manager. Last night he found out just how much the job involves.

Filling in for Mike Hargrove for one night, the Baltimore Orioles' bench coach was forced to make several crucial decisions that had a direct effect on the outcome of the game against the Toronto Blue Jays. Some worked and some didn't in a tough 5-4 loss before 17,004 at SkyDome.

"I was probably rooting a little bit more [than usual]," Perlozzo said of trying to win in his first crack at the helm of a big league club.

A major league coach for the last 16 seasons, Perlozzo was pressed into managerial duties while Hargrove attended a memorial service in Cleveland for longtime Indians trainer Jimmy Warfield. Perlozzo, who managed in the New York Mets' farm system from 1982 to 1986, faced some difficult decisions, from pulling his starting pitcher after only four innings to choosing how best to try to pull off a late comeback on the road.

The decision to remove starter Travis Driskill proved a good one. Thanks to four shutout innings of relief by Chris Brock, B.J. Ryan and Willis Roberts, the Orioles kept themselves in the game and nearly rallied from a 5-1 deficit.

They pulled within one run of the Blue Jays and threatened to tie the game in both the eighth and ninth innings. But each time Baltimore stranded a pair of runners on base, leaving a few managerial decisions up for debate.

With runners on first and second and one out in the eighth, backup catcher Brook Fordyce came up against Toronto reliever Cliff Politte. Opposing right-handed hitters are batting just .154 against Politte, so Perlozzo could have elected to pinch hit for the light-hitting Fordyce. He chose to stand pat, though, and Fordyce wound up striking out. Jerry Hairston followed with a soft liner to first to end the inning.

Facing Blue Jays closer Kelvim Escobar in the ninth, Baltimore threatened again. Melvin Mora was plunked in the left hand the third time the Orioles shortstop was hit by a pitch last night, tying a major league record.

Perlozzo considered giving Mora the steal sign but was concerned about Escobar's quick move to the plate. He also could have had Chris Singleton lay down a sacrifice bunt but elected to let his No.2 hitter swing away.

"You can play for a tie if you want to play for a tie," Perlozzo said. "But we had the top of the order up there and at that point in time, I'd rather see him get a base hit for us. I thought that was the aggressive way to think."

Singleton ultimately flied out to left and Gary Matthews Jr. struck out swinging. Tony Batista singled to left with two out, which likely would have scored Mora had he been on second, but instead left the game in the hands of rookie Jose Leon, who had entered in the seventh inning for first baseman Jay Gibbons.

Leon popped out to second, ending the game and sending the Orioles to a two-game sweep by the Blue Jays after sleepwalking through a 7-1 loss the night before.

Driskill (6-3) labored through one of his worst outings, allowing five runs in four innings. Unable to command his fastball, the rookie right-hander was forced to rely more on his split-finger fastball, one of which was tagged by Jose Cruz Jr. for a three-run homer in the third.

Driskill (6-3) gave up another run in the fourth, and Perlozzo and pitching coach Mark Wiley decided that was enough. Brock entered from the bullpen, and Driskill was left to stew over his third loss in four starts.

"Right now I'm doing everything that I can do to be unsuccessful," he said. "I can't get ahead of hitters. I can't get back in the count when I do fall behind. And if I do get ahead, I can't even put them away and keep them from driving in runs."

Notes Gibbons will have an MRI taken on his aching right wrist today in Baltimore. The second-year first baseman asked out of last night's game in the seventh inning when his surgically repaired wrist went numb. "At that point, I'm not helping the team, so I pulled myself out of the game," he said. "I'll go to the doctor and get it checked out, but I expect to play [tonight]."

Gibbons, who broke the hamate bone in his wrist last Aug.4, is worried that there may be torn cartilage in the area, but he said he thinks he can play through the pain.

First baseman Ryan McGuire, who was designated for assignment Sunday, cleared waivers and was outrighted to Class AAA Rochester.

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