Smith's arrival to put Hammonds on mend?


Yesterday's trade for Lonnie Smith might have made it easier for the Orioles to end the season of Jeffrey Hammonds.

"We are right now in the process of trying to determine what's best for Jeffrey, for Jeffrey to make a decision," manager Johnny Oates said.

With an expanded roster and the addition of Smith, the Orioles comfortably can let Hammonds, expected to be a cornerstone of the organization for years, take the rest of the season off and mend.

The touted rookie, the first of the 1992 amateur draft choices to reach the majors, has hit .305 with three homers and 19 RBI, played well defensively in the outfield and exhibited fine speed.

But his lingering neck and back problems have given Oates cause for concern.

"It's been almost two months," said Oates. "He can't throw, he can't swing the bat 100 percent. The only thing he can do 100 percent is run.

"It's getting to the point where he has to make a decision. Speaking for the organization, it's very important that he be 100 percent next April."

Rotation switch

The Orioles have altered their pitching rotation for the weekend series against the Oakland Athletics. Mike Mussina will pitch tomorrow, Ben McDonald Saturday and Jamie Moyer Sunday.

Sutcliffe update

Under the watchful eye of pitching coach Dick Bosman, Rick Sutcliffe threw limited batting practice for about 30 minutes yesterday.

Sutcliffe underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee two weeks ago, and immediately began rehabilitation. He threw lightly and took some fielding drills Tuesday.

"I was real happy [yesterday]," said Sutcliffe. "It's nice to have a whole body again that you can lean on. I'm anxious for the next test."

That could be throwing in a simulated game sometime this weekend.

Creatures of habit

Never say that baseball isn't a game of superstition.

Bench coach Jerry Narron, who writes out the Orioles lineup in an Old English style, had written the batting order in all capitals during the team's recent eight-game winning streak.

But after the streak ended Tuesday night, Narron posted yesterday's lineup using small letters.

Promises to keep

Two high school friends of Seattle starter Roger Salkeld went a long way to keep a promise.

George Lopata and Chad Keene, who played high school baseball with Salkeld in Burbank, Calif., vowed to be in attendance whenever and wherever the right-hander made his big-league debut.

So when they found that Salkeld, the third player chosen in the 1989 amateur draft, would be making his first major-league start last night, the pair hopped a plane in Los Angeles at 7 a.m. Pacific time and flew cross country to keep their word.

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