MILWAUKEE -- They may be running a not-too-comfortable second in the division race, but the Orioles came up winners in the coin-toss department yesterday.
Only in the highly unlikely event of a three-way tie with the Miwaukee Brewers and Toronto Blue Jays would the Orioles have to play away from home -- and even then they would still have the home-field advantage if they progressed to the deciding game.
If the Orioles finish in a two-way tie with either the Blue Jays or the Brewers, the one-game playoff would be at Camden Yards on Monday, Oct. 5 at a time to be determined.
Should all three teams tie, the Orioles would play the Brewers in Milwaukee on Monday, with the winner playing host to the second playoff game on Oct. 6. If Toronto and Milwaukee finish in a tie, the playoff game would be held at SkyDome.
This is the second time the Orioles have won a coin toss with the Blue Jays. They also won the flip in 1989, but were eliminated from the race on the next to last day of the season.
After the results of yesterday's coin toss, held in the American League's New York office, were announced, Orioles manager Johnny Oates was asked if, considering the circumstances, he'd settle for a playoff game right now.
"You better believe it," he replied without hesitation.
The best-of-seven American League Championship Series begins Oct. 7 at the home of the AL East champion.
Shortstop prospect Manny Alexander made his major-league debut last night, replacing Cal Ripken at shortstop when Oates made wholesale changes in the seventh inning.
The late-inning defensive substitutions also included Steve Scarsone at second base, Luis Mercedes in center field, Chito Martinez in right and Jeff Tackett behind the plate. Randy Milligan and Tim Hulett were the only starters still at their original positions after the sixth.
Alexander made his first plate appearance in the top of the eighth and struck out.
Six sent to Ariz.
The Orioles will provide six players and a coach to the Scottsdale entry in the newly organized Arizona Winter League.
Pitchers Brad Pennington, Jeff Williams and John O'Donoghue, infielder Scarsone and outfielders Damon Buford and Mark Smith will play for a team managed by Dusty Baker. Joel Youngblood, who managed the Orioles' Single-A Kane County team this year, will serve as one of the coaches.
The Arizona League is designed for players considered close to the major-league level, as opposed to the Instructional Leagues, which are for younger prospects.
There will be six teams, with each club stocked with players from various organizations. Players will come primarily from Double-A and Triple-A, with a few selected Single-A performers, mostly those tabbed for quick advancement.
Of the six players the Orioles will have in Arizona, Pennington is considered closest to the big leagues. A 6-foot, 5-inch left-hander, he progressed from Single-A Frederick to Triple-A Rochester this year and is expected to be one of the 15 players the Orioles protect from the expansion draft next month.
Smith was the club's No. 1 draft choice a year ago and had a good season at Double-A Hagerstown. As a second-year player, he is not eligible to be picked by either of the two new National League franchises.