Worthington's sore thigh may be break for Gomez


DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The competition between third basemen Craig Worthington and Leo Gomez has been placed on hold while Worthington recovers from a strained muscle in his left thigh.

Worthington remained behind when the club traveled to Grant Stadium to play a Grapefruit League game against the Toronto Blue Jays, and he could be out of action for several more days.

"Hopefully, it's just a day-to-day thing," manager Frank Robinson said. "With Monday off, hopefully he'll be all right for Tuesday."

Gomez, meanwhile, continues to produce at the plate and has been a pleasant surprise with the glove. He has yet to make an error at third base and has made some tough plays look easy. He's batting .286 to Worthington's .188, but it's early.

Robinson said the injury will not hurt Worthington's status as the incumbent at third base, but it doesn't take Branch Rickey to figure out that the more time and success Gomez has as a starter, the more likely he is to unseat Worthington.

No matter what happens, the Orioles will be faced with a difficult set of decisions. If Gomez does not win the job, he probably would be sent back to Class AAA. If Worthington loses it, the club would have to decide whether to keep him as a backup, send him down or trade him. Only one thing is certain: Someone is going to be unhappy come Opening Day.

* Randy Milligan and Ernie Whitt each hit a home run in the seventh inning to lead the Orioles to a 3-2 exhibition victory over the Toronto Blue Jays.

Whitt's two-run homer earned him a standing ovation from the crowd of 6,079, which had not forgotten the 12 seasons that Whitt played for Toronto.

* Jeff Ballard dropped his exhibition ERA to 0.69 with five scoreless innings, but J.J. Bautista got credit for the victory. Ballard has given up just one run in his first 13 innings and appears to be throwing the way he did during his 18-8 season in 1989.

Bautista and Anthony Telford each pitched two innings and gave up one run. Telford was credited with a save.

* Catcher Chris Hoiles also had a big day at the plate for the Orioles, delivering two singles and a double in five at-bats. That raised his Grapefruit League average to .304.

* First baseman Glenn Davis is on the traveling list for the two-day trip to Fort Lauderdale and Port St. Lucie that begins tomorrow, but Robinson said Davis might stay behind to give him more time to recover from a nagging neck strain.

"I'll talk to him tomorrow and see if he thinks he can play in both games," Robinson said. "If he feels that he wants to play one game and rest it a day, we'll leave him in Sarasota."

The Orioles play a split-squad game at Ed Smith Stadium tomorrow, but the "A" team plays the New York Yankees in Fort Lauderdale and the New York Mets in Port St. Lucie on Wednesday.

* The Milligan left-field experiment continues to run into inclement conditions. He was removed from Saturday's "B" game against the Texas Rangers in Port Charlotte after three innings because of wet field conditions. He was back in the lineup against the Blue Jays yesterday, but did not get a fly ball during his six innings on another wet field.

* The Orioles do not have a game scheduled today, but will work out at Twin Lakes Park at 11 a.m.

* The game yesterday was the first exhibition game between the Orioles and Blue Jays since March 25, 1984. The teams will play here again Thursday.

* Defense usually is a Baltimore mainstay, but the Orioles have struggled afield the past few days. Jeff McKnight's second-inning error yesterday was the team's 11th in the past five games. The opposition has scored 16 unearned runs during that stretch.

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