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Holding Lofton is Eichhorn's stolen joy


CLEVELAND -- Mark Eichhorn shut out the Cleveland Indians for 4 2/3 innings Wednesday night to earn his third victory of a seven-game road trip that concluded last night.

But the throws he took most pride in didn't go to the plate, they went to first base. Eichhorn threw over to first seven times, keeping Kenny Lofton from stealing second in the ninth inning of the Orioles' 7-6, 10-inning victory.

Lofton, who led off with a bunt single, then was erased when Omar Vizquel grounded into a double play, one of five on the night for the Orioles, including three with Eichhorn on the mound.

Orioles pitching coach Dick Bosman opens his spring training talk to his pitching staff with the topic of holding on runners and he doesn't leave it in Florida.

Some pitchers are naturally good at the art, such as Mike Mussina. Others have benefited from Bosman's instruction. Eichhorn falls into the latter category.

"Him on first base with nobody out is almost a run," Eichhorn said of Lofton, second to Vince Coleman in the American League in steals. "I would say before this year or even at the beginning of this year there is no doubt he would have been gone. He probably would have made it standing up. It's something I have worked on a lot out in the bullpen. It's not something that's real easy to do, concentrating on the hitter and the runner at the same time."

Eichhorn credits Bosman with an assist.

"He takes a lot of pride in the whole unit doing a good job in that area, more so than any pitching coach I've ever had," Eichhorn said. "It's important. It can save you a ballgame, or three or four."

Roster move pending

Mike Devereaux could return as soon as today, which puts veteran Lonnie Smith's roster spot in question.

Next to reserve catcher Jeff Tackett, Smith has the fewest at-bats (48) of any Oriole and has been used primarily as a pinch runner lately.

"We're not going to make any roster decisions until Devereaux comes back," Oates said.

Utility man Jack Voigt's spot on the roster appears safe.

"He has gotten a lot of big hits for us and he plays very consistent defense," Oates said. "He's our No. 3 second baseman, our No. 2 first baseman, our No. 4 third baseman, our No. 3 shortstop, our No. 3 catcher and our No. 13 pitcher [behind Tackett]. And we're in deep trouble if we ever go to 13th because he'll already be catching. Jack could probably figure out a way to do it."

Fernandez healing

Left-hander Sid Fernandez was able to throw in the bullpen for a prolonged period for the first time since suffering a strained rib-cage muscle June 18.

Fernandez is eligible to return from the disabled list Monday, the day after his turn in the rotation next comes up. He reported no discomfort after throwing for about 12 minutes in the bullpen.

Around the horn

Albert Belle became the third player this year to hit four home runs against the Orioles. The others: Texas' Jose Canseco and Chicago's Frank Thomas. . . . The last four home runs Mark Williamson has allowed have all come in the eighth inning. . . . Lofton is only the third left-handed batter to homer off Jamie Moyer this season. Seattle's Ken Griffey and Milwaukee's Dave Nilsson had done so previously.

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