KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- While mulling a move that would be much more significant -- shifting Mark McLemore to third base -- manager Johnny Oates made a few changes in the Orioles' batting order last night.
Cal Ripken, who has only one hit in his past 27 at-bats, and Mike Devereaux changed places in the batting order, as did Leo Gomez, who is hitless in his past 29 at-bats, and Jeffrey Hammonds.
Ripken, the club's RBI leader with 40 despite hitting only .215, moved from the third to the fifth spot.
The move paid immediate dividends, with Devereaux driving in runs with singles in his first two at-bats last night.
Devereaux said the move was fine with him.
"I like hitting third. I liked hitting second last year," he said. "I like hitting at the top of the lineup. I liked hitting in front of Cal and behind Brady [Anderson] and this is a lot like that. Hitting behind Mac [McLemore] is a lot like hitting behind Brady and hitting in front of Harold [Baines] is a lot like hitting in front of Cal."
Gomez, whose 10 home runs tie Ripken for second on the club behind Chris Hoiles (14), was dropped to ninth, with Hammonds moving up one notch in the order.
Hammonds also had a two-run double and drove in a run with a sacrifice fly, scoring a man from third with less than two out, something the Orioles had not been doing in recent days.
The changes came a day after Ripken (0-for-5 last night) had hit into two double plays with men on third and less than two out in a 7-1 loss to the Royals.
"It's nothing drastic," said Oates. "I slept on a few things last [Monday] night and it's just something we're going to try for a while.
"I talked to Junior [Ripken] and Devo about it. . . . We'll just see how it goes. It's something I've been thinking about for a few days. It's not based on one game."
Oates also had a brief, closed-door meeting with McLemore before the game. He admitted they talked about McLemore possibly being used at third base -- and for the first time Oates seemed almost receptive to the idea.
With Brady Anderson eligible to come off the disabled list tomorrow, and Hammonds hitting .349, Oates is contemplating ways of keeping his best hitters in the lineup.
"It was a general conversation, but sure it had something to do with that [McLemore playing third base]," Oates said of their pre-game chat.
"That is nothing that I've settled on, but we did discuss it. All Mark wants to do is play."
Oates initially indicated he was against tampering with the Orioles' defense, and the day before he said he had "reservations" about moving McLemore.
But yesterday Oates seemed almost resigned to the move -- at least on a trial basis.
"I'm not saying that I'm going to do it, but someday in the future we might want to try it," he said. "It's not something you do and keep getting beat, but you do it on a trial basis.
"Maybe you try it for a game, and if it works, or it doesn't hurt you, you keep trying it until something changes your mind."
McLemore has not worked out at third base since spring training, and he spent most of his time since then learning how to play right field. Oates said he'd told McLemore to get in some work at third base.
He was asked if that would send a signal to Gomez, who was 0-for-2 with an RBI last night. "I'm not worried about that," said Oates. "Maybe that .201 [batting average before last night] is sending a signal."
It is because he's eager to get Anderson back, and also keep Hammonds in the lineup, that Oates has become more receptive to the idea of trying McLemore at third base.
Nobody wants Hammonds to be a part-time player, especially Oates. And that greatly reduces his options.
"Any time you make changes, you try to think how it will affect the entire lineup, not just the people involved," said Oates.
"A lot of times I'll write down a lineup that I like, then after thinking about what the other manager could do, I change my mind."