TONIGHT: His ankle healed, Gomez returns to give Orioles leg up on Indians


CLEVELAND -- After missing three games with a slightly sprained right ankle, third baseman Leo Gomez should be back in the starting lineup when the Orioles face the Cleveland Indians tonight (7:35, HTS).

Gomez caught his spikes on a seam of the artificial turf at Royals Stadium last Saturday night. "If you rate ankle sprains on a first-, second- or third-degree basis," said Orioles manager John Oates, "they tell me this one was less than first-degree."

Oates had intended to give Gomez the entire game off last night, but used him as a 10th-inning replacement in the Orioles' 5-3 win. "It feels great, a lot better," Gomez said of the ankle.

"Leo could've started [last night], but he'll be better with another day," said Oates, who indicated Gomez would reclaim his starting spot from Tim Hulett tonight. The fact that Hulett was 3-for-6 against Rod Nichols, last night's starter for Cleveland, coming into the game made the decision to keep Gomez on the sidelines that much easier.

Since being recalled from Rochester June 6, Gomez has hit .320 (16-for-50), with three home runs and 10 runs batted in while hitting safely in 12 of his 15 games. He also has scored 10 runs and reached base safely via hit, walk or hit by pitch in all 15 games.

The Orioles will be trying to extend a season-high four-game winning streak when Jeff Ballard (4-7, 4.21) faces Greg Swindell (3-6, 2.70) tonight. With four wins in five starts, the Orioles already have assured themselves of their first winning road trip of more than one series.

After the series finale here tomorrow night, the Orioles return home for six games against the Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers.

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