Red Sox 12, Orioles 5

Reprinted from yesterday's late editions

When the Baltimore Orioles' front office made its risky and oft-criticized decision to start the season with a rotation made up largely of rookies and near rookies, the move came with an expiration date. And that date -- July 31, also known as baseball's non-waiver trade deadline -- is less than a week away.

The Orioles have spent considerable time in recent weeks trying to acquire additional starting pitching, and after the team saw a second straight top rookie starter struggle mightily Monday night, it is safe to assume those efforts will continue through Saturday's 4 p.m. trade deadline.

One night after right-hander Daniel Cabrera suffered his worst beating of the season, it was left-hander Erik Bedard's turn, as the Boston Red Sox clobbered the red-cheeked rookie in a 12-5 win that found the Orioles at their hapless, lifeless worst.

A largely pro-Red Sox crowd of 42,113 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards saw the visitors -- fresh off an emotional series win against the rival New York Yankees -- torch Bedard (4-5) for seven hits and six earned runs in 42/3 innings, batting around against him in the third inning and again against the Orioles' bullpen in the sixth. A steady downpour that began midway through the game only added to the Orioles' sense of gloom.

There is little doubt at this point -- with Bedard and Cabrera suddenly struggling, and retread right-hander Dave Borkowski holding down their fifth-starter job -- that the Orioles are in desperate need of starting pitching, even more than they were on Opening Day.

For months now, the Orioles have been trying to parlay their excess of second basemen into a proven starting pitcher. The biggest problem is that contending teams who might need a second baseman do not necessarily have starting pitching to give up.

Recently, according to team and league sources, the team offered the Oakland Athletics their choice of either Brian Roberts or Jerry Hairston (the A's are believed to prefer Roberts) for 22-year-old right-hander Rich Harden, but were summarily rejected. Subsequent efforts to strike a deal involving multiple players went nowhere.

Over the past two games -- first with Cabrera on Sunday, then with Bedard on Monday night -- the Orioles have witnessed just how little a team can count on young pitching, no matter how talented.

"You go through that with" young pitching, Manager Lee Mazzilli said. "That's where they have to gain their experience."

Bedard breezed through his first eight batters, but after Gabe Kapler blooped a single in front of Karim Garcia in center field with one out, forcing Bedard to work out of the stretch position, suddenly he could not retire a soul.

Before Bedard could catch his breath, the Red Sox had batted around and scored six runs. The beating occurred with sometimes stunning quickness -- Johnny Damon's double, David Ortiz's sacrifice fly, Ramirez's RBI single and Kevin Millar's RBI double all came on Bedard's first pitch.

"It kind of blew up on him," Mazzilli said. "They got six runs so quick. Just bang, bang, bang."

By the fifth inning, Bedard was gone, the stint ranking as his shortest in more than six weeks.

Until Monday night, the Orioles were beginning to think, with some justification, that Pedro Martinez simply could not beat them. They had won all three games this season in which they faced the Red Sox's ace, with Martinez posting an 0-2 record and 8.66 ERA in those three starts.

But while his final pitching line -- 61/3 innings, five earned runs -- did not reflect it, Martinez (11-4) was nearly unhittable at times Monday night. With a fastball that clocked in as high as 94 mph -- some five mph faster than five days ago, when the Orioles bashed him in a 10-5 win -- he kept the Orioles off the scoreboard until Miguel Tejada's two-run homer in the sixth, by which point the Orioles were down by 10 runs.

When Martinez was yanked four batters into the seventh, having given up three hits in the inning, his stroll to the dugout was accompanied by an appreciative roar from the remaining, waterlogged crowd.

After getting battered by the Orioles in previous three encounters, Pedro Martinez enjoyed a big lead Monday night and cruised to his 11th victory.