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Chuck McElroy Happy With Orioles

March 6, 2000

VERO BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ For years he has been summoned from the bullpen to face one batter, maybe two, in the late innings of a close game. He has played in both leagues, bouncing from one team to another before donning jersey No. 47 for the Baltimore Orioles.

Last year, that description fit Jesse Orosco. This season, it’s Chuck McElroy.

The Orioles spent the winter reworking a bullpen that played a major part in a disappointing 78-84 season. As part of the overhaul, Orosco went to the New York Mets for McElroy in a deal involving left-handed specialists.

``Yep, I’ve even got his number. It’s nice to be compared to a guy like that,″ said McElroy, who pitched a scoreless inning Monday in the Orioles’ 17-3 exhibition win over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

McElroy, 32, is a decade younger than Orosco, but their demeanors are as similar as their job descriptions. During his time with the Orioles, Orosco was always quick with a quip and hearty laugh. McElroy has displayed the same traits, blending into the Baltimore clubhouse like sugar into coffee.

``You have to enjoy the game. It makes things a whole lot easier,″ McElroy said. ``Of course, there will be times when you get frustrated. I used to bring it home with me to where it bothered me so much I couldn’t sleep. That’s what happened last year.″

McElroy, the Colorado Rockies’ pitcher of the year in 1998, couldn’t duplicate the performance in 1999. He had three blown saves in a seven-game stretch in April and owned a 6.20 ERA before being dealt to the Mets on July 31.

It took one session with New York bullpen coach Al Jackson to turn his game around. Jackson discovered a flaw in McElroy’s mechanics, and the left-hander promptly retired 11 of the first 15 batters he faced en route to compiling a 3.38 ERA in 15 appearances.

The improvement hammered home to McElroy the importance of a knowledgeable pitching coach _ something he said he didn’t have in Colorado last year. But he’s delighted to be reunited with Baltimore’s Sammy Ellis, who worked as a bullpen coach when McElroy pitched for the Cubs in 1992.

``Sammy called me this winter and we had a great talk,″ McElroy said. ``I told him, `If you see something that’s wrong, come talk to me.‴

Ellis thus far has offered only minimal advice to McElroy, who has pitched two shutout innings this spring.

``We’ve talked a little bit about his delivery since he’s been here. We’re adjusting a couple of minor things, nothing major in any respect,″ Ellis said.

McElroy is a much better pitcher than he was when he worked with Ellis years ago. He has 562 games of major league experience and has expanded his repertoire of pitches by adding a potent forkball to a reliable fastball and slider.

``The forkball is his best pitch,″ Ellis said.

McElroy, like Orosco, has become better with age. He never expected to last this long in the majors, but now he’s talking about extending his career for another decade or so.

``A long time ago, someone told me to keep your mouth closed, do your job and before you know it you’ve got 10 years in,″ McElroy said. ``Well, I’ve done that. Now I’d like to pitch another eight to 10 years. I’m having too much fun.″

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