The Orioles had a bit of a dilemma yesterday. Mike Devereaux was ready to come off the disabled list, fresh from a right hamstring pull, but there didn't appear to be any roster spots available.
But, in a development that is strangely fortuitous, Lonnie Smith came down with a strained left knee that forced him onto the 15-day disabled list, clearing a place for Devereaux.
"It comes and goes. Some days are good and some days aren't," said Smith. "I'm sure I'll be OK. If I don't get any older, I'll be all right."
Smith, whose duties this year have been largely limited to late-inning pinch running and occasional starts as designated hitter against left-handers, said he noticed his knee stiffening after sliding into third on a sacrifice bunt in last Friday's game on the artificial turf at Toronto's SkyDome.
He said the problem was exacerbated after he pinch ran for Harold Baines on Tuesday in Cleveland.
Smith said doctors have told him that his knee, which was operated on while he was with the Atlanta Braves, could become arthritic in the future. He said he would fly to Atlanta to have Joe Chandler, a Braves team doctor who has treated ailments in Smith's left shoulder and right elbow, examine him.
Smith could not return to the roster any earlier than the game after the All-Star break.
"I could still play, but there's no reason. With my knee flaring up like it is, it's better that I go on the disabled list now and try to get this mess taken care of," said Smith.
Devereaux, who started in center field last night and went 0-for-4, returns at full strength, though manager Johnny Oates said the team considered sending him on a one-game minor-league rehabilitation assignment.
"I've watched him and he's fine," said Oates. "He missed a whole lot less time than [Jeffrey] Hammonds and he stepped right in. We felt it was time. He's ready. Let's play him."
Said Devereaux: "The muscle pulls are harder to come back from because you have to rest them. I feel I've done that."
Fernandez to throw today
Oates said Sid Fernandez, who is eligible to come off the disabled list Monday, will throw on the side today, a stint that will determine when he will be reactivated.
Oates said Fernandez, who suffered a rib-cage pull on his left side, is "very close" to returning after throwing Thursday in Cleveland without pain. Oates said he would wait until Fernandez is ready before deciding where he will slide him back into the rotation.
Second baseman Mark McLemore missed his second straight game last night with a slight right shoulder ailment.
McLemore said he jammed his shoulder while stealing second Wednesday.
He took infield practice yesterday and Oates said he could make throws from second.
Tim Hulett, who starts against many left-handers, got the start against California lefty Joe Magrane.
Hooray for Hollywood
For the second straight year, an Orioles player has a role, albeit small, in a feature film.
After Jeff Tackett's nearly Oscar-nominated turn in "Dave" comes Rafael Palmeiro's appearance in "Little Big League," which opened Wednesday.
The movie is the story of a 12-year-old boy who inherits and becomes the manager of the Minnesota Twins upon the death of his grandfather. Palmeiro is seen wearing the uniform of his former team, the Texas Rangers, as they played the Twins in Minneapolis.
Palmeiro, however, forgot to mention to his teammates that he had a part in a movie, a fact that pitcher Alan Mills and third baseman Leo Gomez would not forget yesterday.
Said Gomez: "You're the worst guy on the team."
Night for the books
* With six homers, the Orioles easily extended their club record for consecutive games with at least one home run to 17.
* Cal Ripken's two-run homer was his 300th lifetime as a shortstop, extending his major-league record. It was his 308th overall.
* Chris Sabo scored four runs, to match his single-game career high, set May 1, 1989, at Montreal. He and Brady Anderson are the only Orioles with four runs in a game this year.
* Palmeiro hit his club-leading 14th home run and knocked in four runs. The four RBIs aren't a career best -- he had five as a Cub. He's had four RBIs in a game 11 times.