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Club officials meet with AL president; ruling...


Club officials meet with AL president; ruling expected today 0) on scuffball game

MILWAUKEE -- American League president Bobby Brown met with Orioles officials yesterday in Baltimore to discuss the club's scuffball protest, and he is expected to render a decision today.

Brown traveled to the club's executive offices at Oriole Park to talk with a group of club officials that included president Larry Lucchino, general manager Roland Hemond and club counsel Lon Babby.

"You appreciate it when you are heard," said Hemond, who returned early from Milwaukee to attend the hearing. "We've stated our case."

The Orioles filed the protest after New York Yankees pitcher Tim Leary broke catcher Chris Hoiles' right wrist with an allegedly illegal pitch Sunday night at Oriole Park. The club sent a collection of scuffed baseballs and a videotape of Leary's suspicious activity to the AL office.

If Brown upholds the protest, the game would be replayed from the point where the Orioles asked the umpiring crew to check Leary for an illegal object, with the Yankees leading 2-1 in the bottom of the fifth.

The search was unsuccessful, but Leary was caught on TV apparently putting something in his mouth.

Successful protests are extremely rare, but that did not deter the Orioles. "When you feel you have a legitimate case, you have to pursue it," Hemond said.

New approach for Horn

Designated hitter Sam Horn appears to have a new approach at the plate, as evidenced by Wednesday night's three-hit game and that he has hit just four home runs in the first 2 1/2 months of the season.

Whereas Horn used to hit a home run every 10 or 15 at-bats and bat in the .230s, now he is batting a respectable .273 and averaging a home run every 30 at-bats.

"He has cut his swing down," said hitting coach Greg Biagini, "but I still like his swing to hit for power. He's just eliminating some holes in his swing.

"He'll hit about the same number of home runs whether he swings for them or not, but this way he's going to put the ball in play more."

Horn is still susceptible to strikeouts. He struck out his first two times up yesterday and is averaging a strikeout every three at-bats, which is slightly higher than his career ratio.

The recent adjustments have had more of an effect on what he does when he makes contact.

"He's been working on some things for a few weeks," manager Johnny Oates said. "He's a guy who can hit home runs by accident. I don't care if you hit it 375 feet or 575 feet, it counts the same."

Veteran catcher Rick Dempsey made his playing return to the Orioles official yesterday when he entered the game as an

eighth-inning replacement for Jeff Tackett.

In doing so, Dempsey became the oldest player to appear in a game for the Orioles, at 42 years, nine months. That distinction had belonged to Dizzy Trout, who appeared in his last game with the Orioles at 42 years, three months in 1957.

It was Dempsey's first appearance in a regular-season game since Oct. 5, 1991, when he closed a one-year stand with the Brewers. He last had appeared in a regular-season game for the Orioles on Oct. 1, 1986.

McLemore starts again

Second baseman Mark McLemore was in the starting lineup yesterday for the fourth consecutive game, but Oates said that is the result of the natural ebb and flow of the second-base platoon.

"He's playing well right now," Oates said. "Billy [Ripken] has a good attitude about it. I talked to him and he said, 'I was playing well on the West Coast and you played me every day. He's playing well, so play him every day.' "

Say 'cheese'

Fans can have their photograph taken with Bob Feller, Fergie Jenkins, Don Stanhouse and Paul Blair tonight from 6:15 to 7 at the flagpole pavilion on the Eutaw Street corridor at Oriole Park. They are a few of the former players in town for the "Celebration of Baseball" weekend to benefit the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association, the Orioles Children's Charities and Grant-A-Wish. There will be autograph sessions tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Convention Center.

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