By Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 30, 1999; Page D03
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., March 29—The Baltimore Orioles returned
to the United States and 1999 today, and found everything pretty much as
they had left it. Playing a historic game in Cuba on Sunday did not appear
to have changed them in any profound way, other than making them tired,
sluggish and thankful for small luxuries such as running water.
"I'm just fatigued," said pitcher Doug Linton, who nonetheless started
pitched five solid innings in the Orioles' 7-6 exhibition win over St. Louis
today. "I think everyone feels the same. It was a long two days [in Cuba]."
With the Cuba game and all its attending hoopla finally behind them, the
Orioles returned to the task at hand -- preparing for Opening Day, which
looms only a week away. The first order of business was paring down the
roster, which they accomplished by optioning second baseman Jerry
Hairston Jr. and outfielder Lyle Mouton to Class AAA Rochester, and
reassigning catcher Julio Vinas to their minor league camp. The moves left
the club with 32 players.
In addition, the Orioles made a minor trade, sending minor league
outfielder Danny Clyburn to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for pitcher Jason
Johnson, a big (6 feet 6), hard-throwing, 25-year-old right-hander who
impressed the Orioles when they faced him last September.
Johnson has started and relieved in his career, and he made 13 major
league starts for the Devil Rays last season. He is expected to pitch for the
Orioles in Wednesday's exhibition game against the Florida Marlins.
However, unless he is so impressive that he unseats Linton as the team's
fill-in starter, Johnson likely will begin the season in Rochester.
"We've been talking about [Johnson] all spring," Orioles Manager Ray
Miller said. "He throws in the mid-90s, is a big, strong kid. Just another
strong arm. [General Manager] Frank Wren is my hero because he keeps
accumulating as many strong, young arms as he can."
The Orioles need a fill-in starter because the number four starter is likely
miss his first start of the season. Scott Kamieniecki has been hampered by
a tight hamstring that has caused him to miss two starts this spring. Miller
said today Kamieniecki most likely will start the season on the disabled list
because he hasn't pitched enough to develop the arm strength necessary to
work more than a few innings.
"You don't want to start a guy who is on a 40- or 50-pitch count, and
mess up your bullpen," Miller said.
Linton, 34, continued his impressive spring today, giving up only three
in five innings. But he finally gave up an earned run in the fourth inning
today -- breaking a string of 15 scoreless innings and raising his ERA from
0.00 to 0.53. And he was unhappy with the three walks he issued.
"I don't think I've pitched myself off the team," Linton said. "I felt
was out ahead of my arm, which is a sign of fatigue."
It was clear from the team's three errors and countless other defensive
lapses that Linton's teammates shared his fatigue. And it is understandable.
The team's chartered plane was kept on the ground in Havana for more
than two hours Sunday night for reasons that were never explained to
players. As a result, they didn't get here until midnight. Even after Miller
gave them this morning off, most players showed up bleary-eyed.
Other problems the team encountered in Cuba were a lack of edible food
and no running water in their stadium clubhouse.
"It was a time warp, a really different feeling, not knowing what to expect,
then seeing a parking lot full of '57 Chevys," shortstop Mike Bordick said.
"It's good to be back. To tell you the truth, we didn't eat very much. I think
I had some pork. . . . But all in all it was a good experience. The fans were
great, and it was a great game. It was not just baseball. It was deeper than
Second baseman Jesse Garcia, whose two stellar defensive plays on
consecutive grounders in the bottom of the 11th inning of the Cuba game
sealed the win for the Orioles, said he could sense the team's attitude
changing from nonchalance to burning intensity as the game progressed.
"When we got down there everyone was relaxed," Garcia said. "But when
the late innings came around, it really came down to USA versus Cuba.
I've never played in the World Series, but to me it felt like Game 7 of the
After the game, Cuban President Fidel Castro, in his own way, made a
point of congratulating Garcia, a native of Texas, on the fine defensive
"He said, 'You should have let those balls go through,' " Garcia said.
said, 'Nah.' "
Orioles Notes: With Hairston on his way to Rochester, Garcia is a clear
favorite to begin the season on the major league roster, at least until starting
second baseman Delino DeShields (broken thumb) is ready to play.
DeShields fielded ground balls today before the game and will hit for the
first time Thursday, but he still is likely to miss the first week of the season.
Miller is also toying with the idea of carrying only 11 pitchers -- four
starters -- that first week because there are two off days. That would allow
him to carry an extra position player until the schedule forces him to add a
fifth starter, likely on April 11. . . .
The Baseball Hall of Fame and the Babe Ruth Museum in Baltimore
received some historic memorabilia from Sunday's game. The Hall
received the jersey of Scott Erickson (the Orioles' starting pitcher), the bat
of B.J. Surhoff (Orioles' first hit), the cap of Mike Fetters (winning pitcher)
and a copy of the Orioles' lineup card. The Ruth Museum received the
bats of Charles Johnson (Orioles' first homer) and Harold Baines
(game-winning hit), the batting glove of Surhoff and a copy of the Orioles'
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