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Oates' top starters may get call more often as race heats up


SEATTLE -- Johnny Oates may be the most organized manager in baseball, but he expects to be more spontaneous as the pennant race heats up.

Oates has the starting rotation mapped out until the end of the season, but he said yesterday that he will exercise more and more flexibility as the club's pitching situation evolves.

"Now, if one of our big boys gets in trouble early, he'll come back on three days rest," Oates said. "I want to get as many starts from our big guys as possible."

That should not come as any great surprise.

The Orioles have a legitimate chance to win the American League East title and -- absent a pitching deal equivalent to the one that put David Cone in the Toronto Blue Jays' rotation -- they will need to get every inning they can out of their most dependable pitchers.

"There is no problem in my mind pitching Rick Sutcliffe on three days' rest," Oates said. "I do have [more concern] doing it with a guy like Mike Mussina or Ben McDonald, but that doesn't mean I won't do it. If I do, you can bet they will have input into the decision."

The way the rotation stacks up, Sutcliffe will make at least eight more starts this year and could make as many as nine. The club is 4-0 in his last four starts, his solid performance under pennant pressure vindicating Oates' push to acquire him last winter.

It figures to take that kind of consistency from Sutcliffe and at least a couple other members of the rotation to compete successfully with the newly improved Blue Jays.

Left-hander Jim Poole has thrown well his past three times out and also could rejoin the club Tuesday. If he is among the call-ups, he would give the Orioles three experienced left-handers in the bullpen.

Milacki on Tuesday?

The fifth spot in the rotation comes up Tuesday in Oakland and there is every indication that the starter that night will be right-hander Bob Milacki.

Oates is not saying what he will do yet and there could be an intervening variable in the equation. There still is the possibility that the Orioles could pull off a trade before tomorrow's deadline for playoff eligibility.

If not, it seems very likely that Milacki will get his chance to re-enter the rotation. He was 7-1 over the final six weeks of the Triple-A season and he is the only possible September call-up with extensive major-league experience. Oates said that Milacki will be among the call-ups.

Right-hander Richie Lewis was recalled for two emergency starts in the past several weeks and did not pitch well. Anthony Telford already is here, but figures to remain in long relief.

Sutcliffe returns

Sutcliffe rejoined the club yesterday after attending his mother's funeral in Kansas City, Mo. He made two trips to Kansas City over the past week, returning to the team to make Tuesday night's start against the California Angels.

Anderson moves up

Outfielder Brady Anderson recorded his 44th stolen base in the first inning, tying Al Bumbry for the second highest single-season total by an Orioles base stealer. Anderson will need to pick up the pace a bit to challenge the team record of 57, set by Luis Aparicio in 1964.

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