- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 19, 2002

BALTIMORE It's easy, when looking at the Baltimore Orioles' contingent of young pitchers, to gloss over Sean Douglass and forget that he's around.

Douglass doesn't have the surprising numbers of Rodrigo Lopez, the wicked off-speed stuff of John Stephens or the cannon arm of Jorge Julio. What this 23-year-old right-hander from Lancaster, Calif., does have is an intense desire to earn a spot on next year's major-league pitching staff, and last night he made his best case to date for a shot.

Making his seventh start of the year, Douglass held the Toronto Blue Jays to two runs and five hits in seven innings. Unfortunately for the Baltimore rookie, Blue Jays starter Roy Halladay wasn't giving anything up, and the result was a 2-1 loss before 20,928 at Camden Yards.

Unable to score a run in seven innings against Halladay, the Orioles wasted Douglass' strong effort and fell 2½ games behind Toronto for third place in the American League East.

"Sean Douglass was outstanding tonight," Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said. "Halladay was just a little better."

Douglass has spent more than half of this season on the Orioles' major-league roster, though it would be fair to say the majority of that service time has passed without many realizing it. Called up from Class AAA Rochester in late April to make three spot starts, he struggled mightily but stuck around as a rarely used long man in Baltimore's bullpen.

He returned to Rochester for two months in mid-summer, but came back on Aug.25 and has remained in an Orioles uniform since.

And when rotation stalwarts Scott Erickson and Travis Driskill began faltering in the last month, Douglass found himself starting once again, one of six regulars being used by Hargrove down the stretch.

"The more I get to pitch, the more comfortable I am here," Douglass said. "You always have a little doubt when you first come up and are still trying to establish yourself, but I know I have the stuff to pitch here."

The lanky, 6-foot-6 right-hander entered last night's game with no wins and an unsightly 5.95 ERA, but Hargrove has noticed gradual improvement over the course of the season, enough to make Douglass a serious candidate for a rotation spot next spring.

"He shows more of a presence, as far as looking like he belongs," Hargrove said. "Last year, when he was up here, I'm not so sure he wasn't scared. I saw that his first outing this year, and I haven't seen it since. So he's slowly realizing he has the stuff to get big league hitters out."

Douglass (0-4) got plenty of big league hitters out last night, just not enough to win. Josh Phelps' double, a wild pitch that should have been caught by catcher Geronimo Gil and Jose Cruz Jr.'s RBI single put the Blue Jays up a run in the fifth. Carlos Delgado made it 2-0 with a solo homer to lead off the seventh.

That proved to be enough offensive support for Halladay, a 25-year-old right-hander who is quietly having a remarkable season in Toronto. With seven shutout innings last night, Halladay (17-7) lowered his ERA to 3.09 and further established himself as the Blue Jays' ace of the future.

The Orioles had their chances they stranded runners in scoring position in the first, fourth, sixth and seventh innings. But Baltimore didn't crack the scoreboard until Marty Cordova doubled home Tony Batista in the eighth off reliever Cliff Politte (with Batista running right through third base coach Tom Trebelhorn's stop sign).

That was all the offense the Orioles could muster last night. Politte finished off the eighth and Kelvim Escobar pitched the ninth to earn his 35th save.

Notes Jeff Conine is the Orioles' nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, given out annually during the World Series to the major leaguer who combines on-field success with devoted work in the community. Conine was presented with a $2,500 check that will go to his preferred charity (the Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital) before last night's game. Mike Bordick played his 100th straight game without committing an error, one game shy of Rey Ordonez's major-league record for shortstops.

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