Oates reshuffles Mussina back to a Sunday start


TORONTO -- Right-hander Mike Mussina has been moved back to Sunday's game against the Boston Red Sox at Camden Yards, but not because of any physical setback.

Manager Johnny Oates arranged his rotation for the coming homestand to take advantage of tomorrow's day off and position the club best for a string of 20 straight games without a day off. Mussina tentatively was scheduled to start Friday night, but instead will get one more workout day to prepare for his return from a back strain.

"We talked today," Oates said. "He feels this way he would get his work day. He feels comfortable with that."

Left-hander Jamie Moyer will start Friday night, followed by Ben McDonald on five days' rest Saturday and Mussina on Sunday. Rick Sutcliffe and Fernando Valenzuela also will get an extra day off before returning to the regular fifth-day routine for at least the next three weeks.

Ripken returns

Shortstop Cal Ripken got to Toronto in plenty of time for last night's game after returning home to be present for the birth of his son (Ryan Calvin Ripken) on Monday.

Outfielder Sherman Obando did not rejoin the team last night, but could be in Toronto today. He is in Baltimore with his wife, Joan, awaiting the birth of their first child.

Medical report

Right fielder Mark McLemore took advantage of the day off Monday to recuperate from his collision with Minnesota first baseman Kent Hrbek on Sunday. He suffered a banged-up knee and various other bruises when he cart-wheeled over Hrbek's leg on a close play at first.

* Chris Hoiles has been playing with a sore knee and a bruised wrist, the latter the result of a knockdown pitch in the eighth inning Saturday.

* Brady Anderson said that his sore thumb continues to be a nagging problem, though he turned in a solid offensive performance in the four-game series at the Metrodome. "I still feel it when I swing and miss or when I foul a ball off," he said.

Finding room

Oates has been faced with the pleasant problem of trying to find enough playing time for outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds. The situation is so complicated that it involves a platoon system at second base.

Harold Reynolds plays second when there is a right-hander on the mound for the opposition. McLemore figures to be at second with Hammonds in right field against left- handed pitching.

"It's hard not to write [Hammonds'] name down every day," Oates said, "but Harold has two hits every time I send him out there."

The alternative would be to play Hammonds every day and go with a straight platoon system at second base, but Oates does not want to limit McLemore's playing time.

Hammonds' record pace

Hammonds, who completed his first month in the majors Sunday, is keeping pace with former Orioles outfielder Al Bumbry, who set the club rookie record with a .337 average on the way to becoming the 1973 AL Rookie of the Year.

Trade rumors

Blue Jays GM Pat Gillick was in San Diego on Sunday to watch a pitching matchup between Greg Harris and Montreal Expos right-hander Dennis Martinez. Harris was traded to the Colorado Rockies on Monday, but the Blue Jays still are thought to be interested in both pitchers as possible help for the stretch run.

Gaston refuses WBAL

Gaston was cooperative with the Baltimore media yesterday, but he refused an interview request with WBAL talk-show host Jeff Rimer before last night's game.

The Blue Jays manager still is steaming at WBAL's Jon Miller for referring to him as a "schmuck" during a broadcast after the All-Star flap with Mussina.

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