Orioles Come Up Just Short

Daniel Cabrera
Daniel Cabrera pitches against the Colorado Rockies on Friday. The Rockies beat the Orioles, 2-1. (Nick Laham - Getty Images)
By Jorge Arangure Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 18, 2005

BALTIMORE, June 17 -- Everything but the outcome was perfect for Daniel Cabrera on Friday night. He did not appear uncomfortable, as he did in his previous start last week. He did not walk a batter unintentionally, which was only the second time in his career he could make that claim. His curveball landed in the strike zone instead of in the dirt or off the backstop. This was Cabrera at his best, though his teammates did not offer much help in the Orioles' 2-1 loss against the Colorado Rockies. Baltimore had runners on base in eight of the nine innings but scored only one run.

It has become routine to describe Cabrera's starts as inconsistent. He has allowed less than three runs in consecutive starts only once this year. Four times he's allowed five runs. Twice he's allowed seven runs. Though Cabrera won't likely be demoted or taken out of the rotation, the next several starts for him are crucial. There is not a consensus opinion about Cabrera at this point, according to one source close to the Orioles. In meetings this week with the coaching staff and the scouting department, Baltimore identified starting pitching as its biggest area of need. For the next several weeks the Orioles will scour the market, hoping to find a legitimate No. 1 or No. 2 starter. Otherwise, it's likely Baltimore won't make a deal for a third-tier starter. Some in the organization, according to the source, aren't against trading Cabrera for a front-line starter if one is available.

Only a few players are untouchable at this point -- Miguel Tejada, Brian Roberts, Melvin Mora, B.J. Ryan and possibly rookie pitcher Hayden Penn, who has impressed in his short stint with the team. Cabrera's inconsistency this season has made some wonder whether he will ever be mechanically sound and whether he will ever became the star some think he is capable of being.

The team will monitor San Francisco Giants pitcher Jason Schmidt, who recently was on the disabled list because of right shoulder strain. There may be very few other No. 1 starters, aside from Schmidt, who may be available.

If Baltimore can't acquire a starting pitcher, then they will look to add a bat to its already-potent offense -- though it won't likely be Colorado center fielder Preston Wilson or first baseman Todd Helton.

The Orioles have only tepid interest in Wilson, who had two surgeries on his left knee last season and has not shown he can hit consistently outside of Coors Field. Helton won't likely be available as Colorado ownership is unwilling to trade him at this point though the team is in the middle of rebuilding.

It didn't seem apparent though on Friday. The major league's worst team record-wise played evenly with the American League East's first-place team. Rockies starter Jason Jennings worked out of several jams, mostly because he retired Tejada with men on base. Tejada came to the plate with men on base in the first third and fifth inning, but could not get a hit. Sammy Sosa followed Tejada on two of those occasions, but struck out both times to end the innings.

With two outs in the sixth, Helton, whom the Orioles covet but aren't likely to acquire, sent a drive over the left-center field fence. Center fielder David Newhan chased the ball and made a leaping attempt, but a fan in the center field bleachers stuck his glove out and caught the ball before Newhan could make a play. Colorado had a 1-0 lead. The home run was the first for Helton in 99 at-bats, the longest stretch of his career without a home run.

The Orioles loaded the bases in the sixth. Jay Gibbons doubled with one out. Sal Fasano singled to left and Larry Bigbie walked. But Roberts grounded into a double play to end the threat.

With the AL East race becoming more competitive this week, the Boston Red Sox won for the fifth consecutive time on Friday, it will be regrettable for the Orioles if they end up losing series to the Rockies, Pittsburgh Pirates and Reds. A loss on Friday to the Rockies makes that possibility more realistic.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company