White Sox 15, Orioles 0
Even on a night when they were confronted with the sight of their cornerstone shortstop being helped off the field in pain, the Baltimore Orioles saw a more disturbing scene played out over six tedious innings -- that of their alleged staff ace, sweat and frustration oozing from his pores, absorbing yet another savage beating and being helpless to stop it.
In the embarrassing 15-0 loss to the Chicago White Sox that followed in front of 20,400 at U.S. Cellular Field -- the Orioles' worst loss in nearly three years and one run shy of the worst shutout loss in franchise history -- a small question was raised about the status of Miguel Tejada's major-league-best iron man streak, while the larger question about Sidney Ponson's acute pitching problems gained intensity.
"I'm concerned, obviously," said pitching coach Mark Wiley about Ponson, who allowed 11 hits and seven earned runs. "We have to get him back throwing the way he can. He seems physically fine. He's just not making the pitches he can make."
On a night the Orioles (16-13) welcomed back erstwhile second baseman and new designated hitter Jerry Hairston, their transformed lineup was shut down by White Sox left-hander Mark Buehrle, while Ponson and relievers Rick Bauer and John Parrish were brutalized over and over again by the White Sox's potent offense.
White Sox right fielder Magglio Ordonez had four hits -- three of them versus Ponson, against whom he is hitting .464 (13 for 28) lifetime -- and drove in five runs, while designated hitter Frank Thomas added a towering three-run homer against lefty Parrish in the seventh inning.
Former Orioles farmhand Willie Harris, whom the Syd Thrift regime traded to the White Sox 21/2 years ago for Chris Singleton, also had a career-high four hits and scored four runs for Chicago (18-13).
"It's a bigger urge to beat those guys," Harris said. "I wanted them to feel like they made a mistake in trading me."
As for Tejada -- who owns the longest active consecutive-games-played streak in the majors, which grew to 623 Tuesday night -- he came out of the game in the first inning after suffering what was later diagnosed as a mild strain of his right tibialis anterior, a muscle near the shin. It is the same injury he suffered early in spring training, causing him to miss one game.
Tejada will have a precautionary MRI exam on Wednesday morning, but he insisted he will play Wednesday night, keeping alive his streak.
"I'm going to play tomorrow," Tejada said after the game. "Right now, I'm not feeling any pain."
Although the Orioles could sleep soundly knowing Tejada will be fine, they cannot say the same thing with certainty about Ponson (2-3), whose last four starts have produced an 0-3 record and a 10.28 ERA.
Asked what can be done about Ponson, Manager Lee Mazzilli shrugged. "He's my number-one," he said. "He has to fight his way out of it, is what he has to do."
Ponson's nightmarish evening began when he walked Harris after first getting ahead of him with two quick strikes. By the time he could record the first out, he was already in a 1-0 hole, and by the time the inning ended it was 3-0. The final indignity came five innings later, a two-run homer by Jose Valentin.
"Out of those 11 hits, about three were [on] bad pitches," Ponson. "All the rest were good pitches. Right now, it's not going my way. I'm working hard, but the harder I work the harder I get hit. . . . There's a lot of baseball to go. I'm not in panic-mode yet."
Hairston's return to the Orioles' lineup -- following a lengthy rehabilitation of a broken and dislocated finger suffered in the first inning of the first exhibition game of the spring -- failed to create anything remotely near what the Orioles had hoped to gain by adding a "supplemental" leadoff hitter to the bottom of their order.
Hairston went 1 for 3 with a stolen base, and was one of only three Orioles hitters to advance as far as second base against Buehrle (2-1) and reliever Jon Adkins.
"He shut us down," Mazzilli said of Buehrle. "It seemed like we were just blah. I don't know what it was."
Orioles Notes: In a surprise move, the team called up 22-year-old right-hander Daniel Cabrera to replace lefty Matt Riley, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list.
Cabrera will make his major league debut in a start here Wednesday night against the White Sox.
Cabrera, who has received invitations to big-league camp the past two springs, has been dominating hitters at Class AA Bowie this season, compiling an 0-1 record and 2.63 ERA in five starts.
He struck out 11 batters in each of his last two starts, including a one-hit, no-walk performance against Erie on May 4. Though he has been overshadowed by other pitching prospects in the organization, such as John Maine, Denny Bautista and Adam Loewen, "He's been on our radar screen," according to Vice President of Baseball Operations Mike Flanagan. "And his last three or four starts have been outstanding."
As the fifth starter, Cabrera is guaranteed only two starts before Riley's scheduled return date of May 25. . . .
Riley, who spent the first month of the season in the Orioles' rotation, said he began experiencing discomfort in his shoulder soon after being moved to the bullpen May 2, and when he made his first relief appearance Sunday his fastball was down to about 88 mph. He will be shut down for 3-4 days. . . .
Hairston has offered to play the outfield, and the team has not ruled it out, although Hairston would first need to spend at least several days working on outfield play during batting practice.