Rockies 2, Orioles 1
-- 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 once on a sacrifice fly in the ninth.
"I take a positive out of it because I really struggled last time, but this time I threw better," Cabrera said.
It has become routine to describe Cabrera's starts as inconsistent. He has allowed fewer 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.
"I can't control that," Cabrera said. "I just come here and work hard. These are things I don't think about. That's [the front office's] job. They know what they want to do. As long as I have an Orioles uniform, I think they have confidence in me."
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 become the star some think he is capable of being. Sometimes he is agonizing to watch. Other times he is magnificent.
"You've seen signs of brilliance a lot with him," Manager Lee Mazzilli said. "I think he turned it up a notch since last time."
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 likely won't 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 likely won't be available. Colorado ownership seems unwilling to trade him at this point, even 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.
With two outs in the sixth, Helton, whom the Orioles covet, 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. "I don't know if [Newhan] could have caught it or not," Mazzilli said.
Rockies starter Jason Jennings worked out of several jams. The Orioles loaded the bases against Jennings in the second and sixth innings. Both times Roberts ended the threat.
In the sixth, Jay Gibbons doubled with one out and advanced to third on Sal Fasano's single to left. Larry Bigbie walked to load the bases. But Roberts grounded into a double play. The second baseman, who has been brilliant for most of the season, stranded six runners.
"I was bad," Roberts said. "I didn't get the job done."