Oates ready for challenge of rebuilding
The final phase of the Baltimore Orioles' 1991 salvage operation has begun in earnest, which has made life a little more difficult for manager John Oates.
He managed for three years at the minor-league level and was never out of contention. In his 10-year major-league career, he played on only one team that finished lower than third place. This rebuilding assignment is something new, but Oates seems ready and willing to meet the challenge.
"I have a plan I'm putting together," he said. "If they call me in and say, 'Let's talk about next year,' I'll have something to put in front of them. If not, the only time I've wasted is my own."
In the meantime, Oates will continue to put the club's youth movement on display, though making out the lineup card has become something of a balancing act.
"I think there will be a little more lineup juggling from now on," Oates said before the game. "I've had seven lineups today, and I'm about to go for eight."
Outfielder Luis Mercedes is the newest lineup variable. He started last night's game in the leadoff spot while Mike Devereaux was out of the starting lineup for the second game in a row, but Oates said that Devereaux's playing time won't be seriously affected by Mercedes.
"Mike will be back in there tomorrow night and Wednesday," Oates said. "I don't know how much center field Luis is going to play. Mike might miss three games the rest of the year."
Just to make sure there were no misunderstandings, Oates called several veteran players -- including Devereaux -- into his office to update them on what's going on.
"He [Devereaux] didn't play yesterday and today, and I didn't want one of the players that I count on to wonder about it. I also called in [Joe] Orsulak, [David] Segui and [Randy] Milligan, just to let them know that there will be times when they won't be playing when they think they normally would. That's just communication."
The Mercedes experiment puts Devereaux's regular role at the top of the lineup in danger, but not his place in the lineup. If Mercedes emerges as the full-time leadoff hitter next year, Devereaux probably would bat second, where he could make better use of his power.
"Mike is an aggressive hitter," Oates said, "but with a Mercedes in front of him, you don't have to be a hit-and-run type hitter."
Don Buford, the director of field operations-instruction, will be re-assigned to new duties, general manager Roland Hemond said yesterday.
"It's too early to tell what might happen with Don," said Hemond. "But with the Instructional League starting soon, we have to make preparations.
"We're not sure what his new assignment might be and, you never know, he might come up with another possibility."
The Orioles' Instructional League team will be run by Ed Napoleon, manager of the Gulf Coast League team in Sarasota, Fla., Reid Nichols and Tom Brown, the pitching coach there. All live in that area.
"They work real well together," said Hemond. "We already have a good group in place there."
The Orioles moved their Instructional League team back to Florida after one season in Frederick. Games in this area against college teams violated an NCAA rule.
Right-hander Ben McDonald experienced some renewed stiffness after Sunday's game, but said he was fine last night. . . . Orsulak was held out of the starting lineup last night with a sore shoulder, the result of a diving play in Minnesota last weekend.
Last night's victory was the Orioles' most lopsided shutout since they ended their record 21-game losing streak in 1988 with a 9-0 victory over the White Sox.
With his 2 homers over the weekend, Sam Horn moved into third place in the AL in home-run ratio. Going into last night's game, only the Tigers' Cecil Fielder (1 every 13.6 at-bats) and the Mariners' Jay Buhner (14.4) have better ratios than Horn (14.8).