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Pinched nerve sidelines Hammonds


Jeffrey Hammonds, the Orioles' No. 1 draft choice last year has a pinched nerve in his neck and has been placed on the disabled list by Triple-A Rochester.

Hammonds, who was hitting .302 in nine games after being promoted from Double-A Bowie, was at Camden Yards last night to be examined by team doctors. The Orioles don't expect Hammonds, who has missed eight games, to be out much longer than the required seven-day disabled period.

"It doesn't appear to be anything serious," said Doug Melvin, the Orioles assistant general manager and director of player personnel. "It bothers him mostly with his throwing. He could probably keep playing as a designated hitter, but we don't want to risk anything. We think he'll be ready to play in about a week."

Desert Storm buddy stops by

Orioles manager Johnny Oates had a distinguished pre-game visitor last night. Air Force Gen. John McBroom, who was second in command during Operation Desert Storm, spent about an hour in Oates' office before last night's game with the Indians.

"I'm proud to say I know him," said Oates, who was a three-sport high school teammate of McBroom's. "He was a year older than me and he always seemed to be there.

"He was a pitcher, I was a catcher; he was a running back, I was a blocker; he was a forward, I was a guard," said Oates. "We spent a lot of time together.

"You'd have to look this up, but I believe he still holds an NCAA record for hits in a nine-inning game," said Oates. "He went 7-for-7 for the Air Force."

Baines still progressing

Harold Baines continues to show signs of recovering from the rib muscle injury that put him on the disabled list, but neither he nor Oates will venture a guess as to when the veteran designated hitter will return.

"He swung at some soft toss and he'll do it again tomorrow [today]," said Oates. "Then maybe he'll hit against one of the coaches on Friday. If he does, we'll probably be able to make a better determination."

Down on the farm

The Orioles have promoted three outfielders from Triple-A Rochester (Jack Voigt, Damon Buford and Mark Leonard), but it hasn't detracted from the Red Wings' offense.

Mark Smith, the No. 1 draft choice two years ago, has been on a tear. Before last night, Smith had a 15-game hitting streak (33-66, .500) that had raised his average to .360, second in the International League.

During the streak, Smith has hit all four of his home runs. Smith is third in the league with 28 runs batted in, three more than teammate Paul Carey, who is fifth in the league with a .342 average.

Carey and catcher Mark Parent are tied for the club lead with seven home runs.

Brian DuBois, another familiar name in the farm system, appears ready to take another step along the comeback trail. The left-hander was traded to Detroit in 1989, when he appeared briefly with the Tigers and was 0-4, with a 1.75 ERA.

A year later, after an elbow injury that eventually required surgery, DuBois was claimed on waivers by the Orioles. After sitting out the past two years, DuBois was assigned to Sin

gle-A Frederick, where he has a 4-1 record with a 1.70 ERA.

"We'll probably wait another start or two and then find a spot to move him up," said Melvin.

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