O's Starting Pitching Continues Free Fall

Daniel Cabrera hands the ball to manager Lee Mazzilli as he is lifted from the game in the fourth inning (Nick Wass - AP)
Daniel Cabrera hands the ball to manager Lee Mazzilli as he is lifted from the game in the fourth inning (Nick Wass - AP)
By Jorge Arangure Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 21, 2005

BALTIMORE, May 20 -- Moments prior to Friday's game, starting pitcher Daniel Cabrera, aware that the conditions outside at Oriole Park at Camden Yards had turned raw, paced in the Orioles' clubhouse and asked Rafael Palmeiro, "Is it snowing yet?"

Cabrera would not have to endure the cold for too long. He lasted just 3 2/3 innings in Baltimore's 9-3 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies. The only thing colder than the temperature on Friday night has been the Orioles' starting pitching over the past week.

Baltimore starters have allowed four or more runs in five of the previous six games and allowed six or more runs in three of the past six. Baltimore has only two quality starts in the past eight games. What was a strength in late April and early May once again has become a concern.

"You hit a little flat period, you hope it's just one time through [the rotation]," Orioles pitching coach Ray Miller said. "They're young. You have to have patience."

Cabrera was not knocked around but suffered when he lost his command even for a short spell. He could not find consistency with his curveball.

"He got ahead, then tried to throw his curveball and got into hitter's counts," Orioles Manager Lee Mazzilli said.

Cabrera hit Mike Lieberthal in the second inning with Kenny Lofton on first base. Lofton eventually would score on a single by Jimmy Rollins. Cabrera again hit Lieberthal, this time in the fourth inning, after having walked Lofton with one out. Both men scored in Philadelphia's four-run fourth inning.

Cabrera was pulled with two outs in the inning. He stewed, eyes focused forward, when Mazzilli surfaced from the dugout to bring in John Parrish.

"Today I had good stuff," Cabrera said. "They got lucky. Today was not my day."

With June arriving, the month that usually separates the good teams from the flawed ones, Baltimore's starting rotation needs improvement. Though the attention from those outside the organization has been on acquiring an outfielder or first baseman, the team still is open to pursuing a starting pitcher in the next month when the trade market heats up.

Erik Bedard has been the only starter recently with any success. Ace Rodrigo Lopez has allowed nine runs in his last two starts. Sidney Ponson allowed eight runs -- six earned -- in just 1 1/3 innings on Tuesday. Cabrera has allowed 12 runs in his last two starts.

With Cabrera, there is no middle ground. He is usually spectacular or forgettable; Cabrera has allowed five or more runs in five games this year and twice has allowed one run or less.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2005 The Washington Post Company