- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 30, 2002

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. The Baltimore Orioles left Boston on Sunday night fuming over their bench-clearing brawl with the Red Sox. The initial outrage had subsided by the time they got to Tropicana Field last night for the first of four games with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, but that didn't mean they were content with the outcome of the previous day's events.

The Orioles were upset that they had two players ejected (outfielder Gary Matthews Jr. and reliever Willis Roberts) while the Red Sox lost only pitching coach Tony Cloninger during the fourth-inning incident.

Manager Mike Hargrove spoke with Bob Watson, Major League Baseball's vice president of on-field operations, and gave his side of the story.

"He just wanted to know what I felt led up to it," Hargrove said. "We didn't discuss names of any of their players."

Hargrove didn't name names, but Boston's Derek Lowe might have written his own death sentence Sunday evening when he admitted to inciting the whole ordeal. Lowe all but said he intentionally hit Matthews as retaliation for Scott Erickson plunking Manny Ramirez the previous inning, and he admitted taunting Matthews after he tried to steal second base.

"You've got to protect everybody," Lowe said, "but especially your superstar players."

Watson told Hargrove it would take "at least a couple of days" to make a decision on suspensions and/or fines. It seems likely that Roberts will be penalized for his part in the brawl he was seen throwing punches at several Red Sox players, but he insisted he was hit from behind first.

Hargrove wouldn't speculate on possible repercussions.

"You just don't know," he said. "There's no set formula there."

Johnson on DL, Stephens up

As expected, the Orioles placed right-hander Jason Johnson on the disabled list with tendinitis of the right shoulder and called up rookie John Stephens from Class AAA Rochester. Stephens, a 22-year-old native of Australia, will make his major league debut tonight against Tampa Bay after spending 5½ years in the Baltimore farm system.

"It definitely would have been great if I got the call before, but I can't complain about it now," said Stephens, a right-hander who went 11-5 with a 3.03 ERA at Rochester. "I finally got to where I wanted to be. I got that extra experience, so I'm sure that's going to help me."

Stephens will make at least two starts with the Orioles, because Johnson was placed on the DL retroactive to July23 and won't be eligible to return until Aug.7.

The struggling Johnson (3-8) was told he would miss one start when he had his shoulder examined by team doctor Charles Silberstein last week in Baltimore. He's not upset over the prospect of another few days of rest.

"I'd rather come back 100 percent than come back 90 percent and end up getting tendinitis again because I didn't let it rest long enough," said Johnson, who earlier spent six weeks on the DL with a fractured finger. "I definitely want to pitch, but I figure a little extra time might help."

Hentgen eyes return

Right-hander Pat Hentgen, who has not pitched since May 2001 and underwent elbow ligament replacement surgery last August, has nearly completed his rehabilitation program at the Orioles' minor league complex in Sarasota, Fla.

Hentgen will throw six innings in a simulated game today with manager Mike Hargrove and pitching coach Mark Wiley in attendance. That will conclude the prescribed portion of his rehab, with the likely next step being a 30-day minor league assignment.

It is in both Hentgen's and the club's best interest that he return to pitch for the Orioles this season, because his two-year contract will expire. The club has an option for 2003 but will want to see him pitch competitively before making a decision.

Hargrove said yesterday Hentgen will likely pitch this year if he's healthy.


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