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Key locked in at rehab

July 26, 1998|By CURT HORNBECKER / Staff Correspondent

FREDERICK, Md. - When Jimmy Key lost his last outing for the Baltimore Orioles, he didn't expect to get his next win two months later in a Class A game in Frederick.

But the Orioles southpaw, in what he hopes will be his only rehabilitative assignment, pitched six strong innings for the Frederick Keys in a 13-4 win over the Salem Avalanche at Harry Grove Stadium Friday night.

Despite being on the disabled list for two months, Key was pleased that he allowed just two runs on four hits, with six strikeouts and two walks.

"I'm surprised it went so well," said Key. "It's been two months since I pitched. I'm satisfied with the way I kept the ball down most of the night. My location was pretty good, and (the Salem hitters) laid off some good pitches."

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Two of the four hits allowed by Key, the Orioles number three starter to open the season, were solo home runs; the first gave the Avalanche a 1-0 lead in then second.

"One of them was a slider," said Key, "and the kid should have hit it out. The other was a fastball down the middle. I was down in the count, 2-0, and just wanted to throw a strike. But that doesn't bother me. These are young professionals, and they can hit the ball out of the park."

While Key's performance was cause for encouragement, a quick return to Baltimore is still an uncertainty.

"I'm going to wait and see," he said. "I want to see how my arm rebounds from this. My arm still hurts a little bit, but I'm going to have to try to pitch with it, and try to make it through the end of the season."

The Orioles' original plan was for Key to throw three to five innings, or about 50 pitches, but, "I talked them into letting me throw 70 to 75 pitches. I don't want to make three or four rehabilitative starts."

Despite Baltimore winning 14 of its last 15 games, Key is well aware that the road to a playoff berth will be a steep climb, and he's anxious to help Baltimore's ascent.

"It's a race again," said Key. "The guys are doing a phenomenal job. They're playing like they were last year. If we can keep it going, we have a shot at the playoffs, and that's saying a lot considering the way we started the season. I'd want to get back anyway, but especially with the guys playing the way they are. I want to start contributing."

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