- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 24, 2002

BALTIMORE As they took the field at 4:40p.m. yesterday for batting practice, nearly every one of the Baltimore Orioles commented on how unbearably hot it was 96 degrees, with a heat index well over 100.

Two hours later, the temperature had dropped 20 degrees and the skies had opened. And after a 90-minute wait with no foreseeable end to the storm, Camden Yards officials called off the Orioles' game against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Don't worry they have plenty of opportunities to make it up. The Blue Jays are making just the first of three trips to Baltimore, so there was no urgency to sit around for hours waiting to start this game. They'll play it Aug.24 at 1:35p.m. as part of a day-night doubleheader.

Tickets from last night's postponement should be used for the 1:35 game, with all tickets originally dated Aug.24 used for the 7:05p.m. nightcap.

Travis Driskill and Chris Carpenter, last night's scheduled starters, will start today's scheduled 3:05p.m. game.

Speaking of starting pitchers, Jason Johnson noted after his poor performance Monday night that his velocity dropped a good three to four mph around the fifth inning, and it seemed a cause for concern.

After reviewing Johnson's performance in the Orioles' 6-3 loss to Toronto, manager Mike Hargrove wasn't worried.

"It's very rare for a pitcher to be throwing the same velocity in the sixth and seventh inning as he is in the first," Hargrove said. "We went back and looked at the charts today. He dropped down in velocity, but then he came back. He didn't throw everything 93 mph, but he didn't throw everything 89 mph either. It fell off, but not dramatically so."

Though he cruised through the first four innings without allowing a run, Johnson (3-8) had all kinds of trouble locating both his curveball and his change-up. That forced him to throw almost exclusively fastballs; the results weren't pretty.

Johnson served back-to-back homers in the fifth, then again in the sixth. After the game, the right-hander noted that he needs "to get the strength back in my arm," though he insisted he's not battling any physical ailments that would lead to the diminished velocity.

Chris Richard, however, is still battling physical ailments.

Eight games into his rehab assignment, Richard is showing that he's ready to return. Unfortunately, he hasn't shown that he's ready to return to the Orioles' outfield, and that's why he may not be activated for at least another two weeks.

Richard, recovering from offseason surgery on his left shoulder, was 11-for-30 with two homers and 11 RBI through his first eight rehab games at Class AAA Rochester. Still unable to throw a ball, though, Richard has been limited to DH duties and will continue as DH for the immediate future.

He's allowed to spend the maximum 20 days on rehab before he must be activated or go back on the DL, meaning the Orioles don't have to make a decision for another two weeks.

"I think we'll let it play its way out," Hargrove said. "He's still rehabbing his arm as far as throwing is concerned. I don't think any of us have had any concern, especially not him, about swinging a bat. He's been swinging a bat for a while."

It's possible that Richard could be used only as a DH once he returns, though it will depend on the status of the rest of the team.

"It depends where the ballclub is at the time when he's ready to come off," Hargrove said. "He's swinging the bat very well. We've missed his bat just as much as we've missed Conine's and Segui's and Bordick's. We'll just have to look and see where the club's at."

Right-hander Pat Hentgen, recovering from last year's elbow ligament replacement surgery, is progressing "ahead of schedule," according to Hargrove, though Hentgen's hope of an August return might be optimistic.

Hentgen is ready to throw four innings at the Orioles' minor-league complex in Sarasota, Fla. His fastball is clocked at 84 to 86 mph, still several mph off his pre-surgery velocity, but an improvement over previous readings.

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