- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 29, 2002

BALTIMORE Calvin Maduro was given an opportunity to prove he belongs in the Baltimore Orioles' starting rotation.
The Orioles as a team were given a chance to beat up on struggling left-hander Mark Mulder for the second time in a week.
Neither took advantage.
Maduro was roughed up again perhaps enough to merit a demotion to the bullpen and the Orioles could not drive in runners against Mulder, a combination that led to a 5-2 loss to the Oakland Athletics last night before 24,825 at Camden Yards.
Hours before the game, Baltimore manager Mike Hargrove said the game was "an important start for Calvin," a telling remark that suggests Maduro's days in the starting rotation could be numbered.
Right-hander Jason Johnson, out since April 25 with a fractured middle finger, made it through his first rehab appearance Monday without problems and is scheduled to throw five innings Friday or Saturday at Class AA Bowie. If all goes well, Johnson could be back in the Baltimore rotation next week and start at Yankee Stadium either June 5 or 6.
That means someone from the Orioles' rotation must go. Though spot starter Travis Driskill seems the obvious choice, the 30-year-old rookie could earn an extended stay should he pitch well against the Mariners on Saturday a start Hargrove confirmed yesterday.
"We've got a plan in mind, and we'll implement that plan," Hargrove said after the game. "We obviously have people coming back."
Maduro (2-5) certainly didn't make much of a case for himself last night. Coming off three straight starts in which he failed to last more than 5⅓ innings, the right-hander was yanked after 4⅔ innings after the A's pounded him for the second time in a week.
Last Wednesday, Maduro surrendered six runs and 10 hits in four innings in Oakland, setting in motion the chain of events that led to Driskill's addition to the rotation. He wasn't as bad last night, but he did give up four runs in the second inning and was all over the plate throughout the evening.
"He really hasn't been the same guy the last four or five starts at a minimum," Hargrove said. "He just hasn't commanded his pitches like he did last year. I think he's healthy; I don't think he's hurt. For whatever reason, he's just not commanding any of his pitches right now."
Maduro's wildness was particularly destructive last night. He walked two batters in the second inning; both were immediately followed by home runs.
After Jermaine Dye trotted down to first to lead off the inning, Eric Chavez hit Maduro's first pitch over the right-field scoreboard for his 12th homer. Terrence Long then walked on four pitches, and Adam Piatt drove him in with a 422-foot blast to center field that made it 4-0.
When Maduro served up an RBI double to Long in the fifth, Hargrove had seen enough. Maduro departed after throwing 98 pitches (56 strikes) with an ERA that has climbed to 5.57.
"I go out there every time and give my best," said Maduro, who hinted that a lingering forearm injury and an undisclosed personal situation have had an effect on his performance, though he said they are not excuses for the way he's pitched. "I don't know what's going to happen. I want to keep [starting], but it's not up to me. It's not my decision."
Even with Maduro's struggles, the Orioles kept themselves within striking distance of the A's and actually could have led the game had they been able to come through with runners on base. Baltimore batters went two-for-13 with runners in scoring position, stranding a runner on third with one out in the first and leaving the bases loaded in the second.
"We had chances," Hargrove said. "We left a lot of runners on the bases tonight, and you can't do that against a team like the A's."
Mulder, who was supposed to start tonight's game, was flip-flopped with Erik Hiljus. Though Mulder (3-4) did not look significantly better than he did in last Thursday's loss to the Orioles, he did emerge with a much-needed victory his first since April 6 against Seattle.


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