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Poole almost ready to test the waters


CLEVELAND -- Jim Poole may be closer to rejoining the Orioles than it appeared just a few days ago.

The lefthanded relief pitcher, who has been on the disabled list since the start of the season with shoulder tendinitis, had his rehabilitation assignment moved from the Double-A Hagerstown Suns to the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings, where he made two appearances during the weekend.

"It's a little more encouraging," said assistant general manager Doug Melvin. "He pitched Friday and Sunday, and got a save in both games."

Manager Johnny Oates said before last night's game that reports on Poole have gotten better. "It's encouraging -- we're talking about him," said Oates, who a few days before said he didn't think Poole was ready to return to the big leagues.

"His velocity has been a little better -- but that's not really what we're worried about," said Oates. "He's building up his arm strength, and that's the most important thing."

Poole's absence is one of the reasons given for Mike Flanagan's inconsistency so far this year.

* TURN, TURN, TURN: Research has uncovered more information on the Orioles' dramatic turnaround from a year ago. In the past 50 years, only one major-league team had a better record than the Orioles (38-24) at this point in the season after losing 90 or more games the year before.

The wartime 1945 Brooklyn Dodgers were 39-23 after losing 91 games the previous year. The 1990 White Sox were 37-25 after losing 92 a year earlier.

* SNEAK PEEK: The Orioles will get an unexpected early look today at Jeffrey Hammonds, their No. 1 draft choice.

The U.S. Olympic team will play Team Nicaragua at Cleveland Stadium as a preliminary to the Orioles-Indians game tonight. Hammonds, the fourth pick overall, is one of 10 first-round draft picks on the U.S. team.

This will be the first of two appearances for Hammonds in conjunction with games played by the Orioles. The U.S. team will play Korea at Camden Yards on July 11, before a game against Minnesota.

* TURN ON THE POWER: The shortened distances to the outfield fence at Cleveland Stadium have increased the Indians' home run output this year -- but also have increased those hit by the opposition.

The Indians hit 15 home runs in the first 30 games here this year -- compared to six a year ago -- but the opposition hit 33. Overall, the Indians had 16 more home runs (47-31) than at the same point a year ago.

* ADVANCE SCOUT: Dennis Boucher made his first appearance against the Orioles last night, but there was one person in uniform who had faced him before.

"I took him deep [for a home run] in his major-league debut," said Rick Dempsey, now an instructor and catcher-in-waiting for the Orioles. The event occurred last April 12 in SkyDome, where Boucher made his first start for the Blue Jays against the Milwaukee Brewers, Dempsey's team last season.

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