One of Orioles manager Johnny Oates' first duties yesterday was to calm the nerves of catcher Chris Hoiles.
Hoiles hadn't done anything wrong. In fact, his hot bat led Oates to bat Hoiles in the cleanup spot for the first time this year.
"Don't get nervous, Chris," Oates told Hoiles as he checked the lineup card.
Hoiles said he wasn't nervous, but admitted to being a bit surprised to be batting fourth, especially on a club with such recognized power hitters as Cal Ripken, Glenn Davis, Randy Milligan and Sam Horn.
"I've been fifth, sixth, seventh, but I've never hit fourth. Not at this level," said Hoiles, who has hit .360 since the first week of the season.
With his .322 batting average and nine homers -- tops among American League catchers -- Hoiles shouldn't be so surprised by hitting cleanup.
"I need a No. 4 hitter tonight," said Oates, who said he is not locked into a set player in the cleanup slot.
"I'll take it," said Hoiles. "As long as I'm in there, I'll take it."
Last night he almost took A's starter Joe Slusarski deep, but centerfielder Jerry Browne caught his 400-foot drive with two on in the fifth inning at the fence. Hoiles finished 0-for-4.
* LINEUP CHANGES: Oates is faced with an interesting situation for tonight's series finale with Oakland and A's starter Bob Welch.
Davis, Horn and Milligan all are batting higher than .400 lifetime against Welch, yet only two of them can start between the first base and designated hitter slots.
Oates wouldn't tip his hand as to who would sit and who would hit, but did indicate that Davis, who has not played in the field since Opening Day, might get the start at first base.
In other lineup developments, Oates said he was unsure when David Segui would play, now that Horn, Milligan and Davis seem settled into a regular rotation at first base/DH.
With his abilities to play the outfield and switch hit, Segui, who is batting .276 overall and .270 from the right side, would seem to be a part of a right-field platoon.
"I can't tell you when he's going to get his at-bats. I don't know," said Oates.
Another player whose playing time has been limited is Chito Martinez, who is batting .129, with only four hits in 31 at-bats.
"I talked to Chito and told him when I put him out there, it's important that you do something. Make me make a decision," Oates said.
Martinez helped his cause last night with a pinch single in the ninth.
* 6-0? Pitcher Mike Mussina tonight will try to become the fifth Oriole to go 6-0 to start the season.
Dave McNally (15-0 in 1969), Hoyt Wilhelm (9-0 in 1959), Wally Bunker (6-0 in 1964) and Mike Flanagan (6-0 in 1983) won their first six decisions.
Ben McDonald failed Sunday in Chicago to get his sixth win without a defeat, losing to the White Sox, 14-10.