- The Washington Times - Friday, May 3, 2002

BALTIMORE Josh Towers stood by his Baltimore Orioles locker yesterday afternoon, not knowing what lay ahead for him whether he would continue to wear his Orioles jersey through the weekend or be sent to Class AAA Rochester.

By the end of the evening, Towers had his answer: A Red Wings uniform will be awaiting him in Rochester today.

The Orioles optioned the 25-year-old right-hander to the minor leagues following last night's 6-2 win over the Kansas City Royals, a decision that did not come easily for manager Mike Hargrove but became a necessity given Towers' dramatic struggles this season.

"The league adjusted to him, and Josh never really adjusted after the league adjusted to him," Hargrove said of Towers, who won five games last June but has lost 11 of 13 decisions since and lost his spot in the Baltimore rotation. "It became apparent that Josh needed to do something to get back [to his previous form], and he didn't."

Needing an insurance catcher while starter Geronimo Gil recovers from a strained right hamstring and left groin, the Orioles purchased the contract of Izzy Molina from Rochester. Molina will back up Brook Fordyce for the next few days. Injured pitcher Luis Rivera was transferred from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day DL to make room on the roster for Molina.

Before the game, Hargrove said he would not make a decision on Towers until "[today] at the earliest." But following Towers' disastrous, 10-run relief appearance Wednesday night in Boston, the Orioles felt it was time to make a move.

"This is a positive move, it really is," Hargrove said. "What becomes of it is on Josh now. If Josh goes down and does what I think he can do, I don't expect him to be down there a long time."

Towers, who was 0-3 with a 7.90 ERA and a league-high 11 homers surrendered, was aware before the game that he could be headed to Rochester, and he wasn't dead-set against a move, provided it made sense.

"It depends on why I'd be going down," he said. "There are some things I need to work on, whether I do it down there or up here. I've got to make the adjustments. If I go down just to correct something, that's one thing. If I go down because I can't pitch here, that's another story."

Johnson aims for May 10

Right-hander Jason Johnson, out with a fractured right middle finger, said he hopes to be back in the Orioles rotation by May 10, a mere 15 days after going on the disabled list following his accident.

"It hurt the first few days, but the pain's gone now," said Johnson, who broke his finger while performing a "shadow" pitching motion drill last week. "Hopefully I can get back in a week. I'm banking on May 10."

The original diagnosis had Johnson missing three to five weeks, including a potential rehab assignment or two, but Johnson (who stayed in Baltimore during the Orioles' recent road trip and worked out at Camden Yards) said he doesn't plan on it taking that long.

While he said he will still use the shadow drill as a part of his between-starts regimen, Johnson will now hold a towel in his right hand to avoid slamming his fingers into the ground as he did last week.

Extra bases

Catcher Geronimo Gil missed his third straight game with a strained right hamstring and left groin. Though the team hasn't ruled out the possibility of a trip to the DL, it's unlikely.

The Orioles will hold a silent auction during games tonight and tomorrow, with proceeds benefiting the Salvation Army's relief efforts for victims of Sunday's tornado in La Plata, Md.

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