The notion had been bouncing around in Johnny Oates' mind all week, but it wasn't until he was driving to Oriole Park yesterday that he made the decision.
Five losses in six games helped prompt it. Yes, the Orioles manager decided, he would move Cal Ripken from third to fifth in the batting order, put Randy Milligan at No. 2 and drop Mike Devereaux from No. 2 to No. 3.
So last night's game marked the first time since Oct. 2, 1990, that someone other than Ripken had batted third for the Orioles.
On that date, too, it was Devereaux in the third slot. The last time Ripken had batted fifth was Aug. 7, 1990.
"We want to get Cal started," Oates said, indicating it could relieve the pressure on the shortstop. "Maybe this will make them [all three players] more relaxed."
Ripken entered the game with a .167 average in the previous nine games and with no home runs in a career-high 52 straight games since hitting two June 23 at Milwaukee.
July was his first month without a home run since the first two months of his career in August and September 1981.
Asked before the game about his reaction to the change, Ripken smiled as if it were no big deal. His response was vintage Cal Ripken.
"Fine, it doesn't matter where you bat," he said.
"Whatever lineup the manager selects is OK with me. We're all out to win."
Oates consulted all three players, also soliciting their reactions.
"They seemed to be excited about it," Oates said, "so that reinforced my view."
Last night's 4-2 win over the Oakland Athletics was enough to make Oates say he would try it, or something similar, again tonight.
"Most likely we'll have the same three in the same spots, but not positively," Oates said.
"I'll decide on my way to the park."
Milligan and Ripken both were 0-for-3 with a walk last night, and Devereaux was 0-for-1 with two walks, a sacrifice fly and two RBI.
As usual, Brady Anderson led off last night.
After Milligan and Devereaux, Sam Horn batted fourth.
Absent from the lineup, for the second time since July 16, was Glenn Davis. He fouled a ball off his foot Wednesday night and missed Thursday's game. His foot was sore last night.
Devereaux leads the team in home runs and RBI, and has batted almost 75 points higher from No. 2, where he has spent most of his time, than from other positions this year.
"The No. 2 has been good to me, but I'm in this for the good of the team," Devereaux said.
Said Oates: "It gives Devo another guy to hit behind and to drive in. That's the best part of his game right now."
One of the contributions of Milligan, who usually bats fourth or fifth, has been getting on base, which makes the move to No. 2 logical.
Milligan came in last night with a .399 on-base percentage, fifth best in the American League.
He had reached base in 40 of his past 43 games.
"I don't mind the switch at all," Milligan said. "No big deal. You only bat second once a night anyway, at the start of the game. The whole idea of this is to try to get men in scoring position."
Said Oates: "This will give Randy a chance to get on base more. That's the best part of his game right now.
"Whether this is the answer or not, I don't know. But I thought I'd give it a try."
A new order
A look at how the top five hitters in the revised Orioles lineup fared last night:
Player.. .. ...AB.. ..R.. .. H.. ..RBI.. ..BB.. ..SO
Anderson.. .. .1.. .. 2.. .. 1.. .. 1.. .. 3.. .. .0
Milligan.. .. .3.. .. 0.. .. 0.. .. 0.. .. 1.. .. .0
Devereaux.. .. 1.. .. 0.. .. 0.. .. 2.. .. 2.. .. .0
Horn.. .. .. ..4.. .. 0.. .. 1.. .. 0.. .. 0.. .. .1
C.Ripken.. .. .3.. .. 0.. ...0.. .. 0.. .. 1.. .. .1