- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 25, 2002

BALTIMORE Throughout this unpredictable season, the Baltimore Orioles' roster has gone through a number of makeovers because of injuries, inadequate play or minor-league call-up.

Yesterday, sandwiched around a 5-2 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays, the Orioles made two decisions that could have an immediate impact, one positive and one negative.

Outfielder Chris Richard, who has not played all season after undergoing left shoulder surgery, will be activated off the disabled list in time for tomorrow night's game in Boston. His presence could do wonders for a Baltimore lineup that has been playing for an extended period without veterans Jeff Conine, David Segui and Mike Bordick.

"Eventually, losing people like that out of your lineup will tell," manager Mike Hargrove said. "I think this move really bolsters our offense."

On the other end of the spectrum, right-hander Jason Johnson will have his next start pushed back after an MRI revealed tendinitis in his pitching shoulder an injury that Johnson thinks could keep him out of action longer.

"[Team doctor Charles Silberstein] said just rest it for a couple days, start throwing again and miss one start totally," said Johnson, whose next scheduled turn would be Tuesday at Tampa Bay. "We'll go from there and see how it reacts, see if we can get the tendinitis out."

This much is certain: The Orioles could use a shot in the arm after dropping their fourth straight game to the Blue Jays, who have climbed within 3½ games of Baltimore for third place in the American League East.

For all their surprisingly solid play against some of baseball's tougher opponents, the Orioles have struggled at times with lesser competition. They're 19-17 against the Yankees, Angels, A's, Mariners and Giants all teams with winning records. They're 9-19 against four losers: the Blue Jays, Devil Rays, Indians and White Sox.

Baltimore did emerge from yesterday's defeat somewhat encouraged. Rookie right-hander Travis Driskill rebounded from two straight poor starts to pitch well for seven innings in a hard-luck loss. The Orioles just couldn't dent Blue Jays starter Chris Carpenter, even though they collected eight hits.

"I'm sure the Blue Jays would disagree, but I thought that Travis really outpitched Carpenter today," Hargrove said. "We hit the ball very hard today. We just didn't hit the ball at the right place at the right time."

Driskill, who was tagged for five runs and seven hits in five innings last Thursday at SkyDome, really made only one bad pitch yesterday and he didn't even think that one was thrown poorly.

With the game scoreless in the fifth inning, Driskill (6-4) left an 0-1 split-finger fastball over the plate to Toronto's Dewayne Wise. The rookie outfielder tagged it to right-center for a solo homer, the first of his career, to put Toronto ahead 1-0.

Driskill was charged with three more runs before departing two batters into the eighth inning, but Luis Lopez's error and some well-placed hits off Baltimore relievers Buddy Groom and Willis Roberts helped make it happen.

"Today was just one of those days where I got beat," Driskill said. "That's the way baseball goes."

Richard's addition to the Orioles' roster in time for their upcoming three-city, 11-game trip was a surprising move, considering that Hargrove said Wednesday the club wasn't close to making a decision on him.

But Richard, who hit .265 with 15 homers and 61 RBI last season, showed during a nine-game rehab stint at ClassAAA Rochester that he's ready to return to the active roster. He hit .371 with five doubles, three homers and 13 RBI, though he's still unable to throw a ball.

"We thought his stroke was at the point where he could compete at this level," Hargrove said. "He will play solely at DH, or as a pinch hitter off the bench."

To make room for Richard, the Orioles will option outfielder Luis Matos to ClassAA Bowie today. Outfielder Luis Garcia cleared waivers and was outrighted to Rochester, leaving an open spot on the 40-man roster for Richard.

Johnson doesn't think his shoulder tendinitis will require his second trip to the DL this year (he was already out six weeks with a fractured middle finger), but he does not expect to make his next scheduled start.

"Anything wrong with your arm, if it is not a tear or anything that needs surgery, it's always a relief," he said. "When Silberstein told me [to miss] one start and it might be gone, that's all I needed to hear."

Johnson (3-8) said he first felt soreness in his pitching shoulder during a July12 start against the A's. The pain returned last week at Toronto and again in Tuesday's home loss to the Blue Jays. It was only then that he informed the club of the injury.

"I don't know of a player or pitcher that goes out there totally pain-free every time out," Hargrove said. "Whether it's a major pain or a minor pain, you go out there and you learn to play with it. It's just part of the business. But there comes a point in time where that pain doesn't allow you to do your job. And players [always] have been in conflict with that."


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