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Fernandez returns to mound today


Orioles left-hander Sid Fernandez will be activated from the disabled list and is scheduled to start today's opener of a three-game series against the Seattle Mariners.

Fernandez spent 15 days on the DL recovering from a strained rib cage muscle. Mike Oquist, originally scheduled to make today's start, appeared out of the bullpen in yesterday's 10-3 victory over the California Angels.

The Orioles next need their fifth starter Friday against the Oakland Athletics.

To make room for Fernandez, the Orioles must squeeze someone off the roster today.

"We talked about it some after the game, but we're going to meet again tomorrow to discuss it," Orioles manager Johnny Oates said.

Fernandez, 4-4 with a 4.44 ERA, has found scouting reports on the American League to be accurate. Shorter fences lead to more home runs. Fernandez has allowed 17 home runs in 81 innings, a factor in his not yet establishing himself as a big winner in the middle of the Orioles' rotation.

"The ballparks are smaller," Fernandez said. "A lot smaller. In most National League parks down the line is a little deeper and the gaps are a lot deeper. And the ball seems to carry a lot better in the American League. I think hitters get pumped because of that."

Nevertheless, Fernandez said he does not believe in nibbling at the strike zone to compensate.

"You can't change your game," Fernandez said. "You still have to throw your game. You can't sacrifice your stuff."

Fernandez already has spent two stays on the disabled list, the first with bursitis of the left shoulder, but he has had a smooth season compared to a couple of former Mets teammates, Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden, both sidelined by drug-related problems.

"I lockered next to Darryl for five years," Fernandez said. "He's a nice guy. People should give him another chance. Steve Howe had seven chances. I think Darryl should have another chance. I think Doc should have another chance too. I don't think he should be crucified for that. I really don't. I'm pulling for him. I really am. Doc should take care of himself and his family first. When he's ready to come back, there shouldn't be any question about whether we should let him back."

Orioles spared facing Johnson

Mariners manager Lou Piniella dropped John Cummings into the rotation for yesterday's game against the New York Yankees and pushed everyone back a day, which knocked left-hander Randy Johnson out of the Orioles' series.

Piniella made the move in part because the Yankees have a far better record against right-handers than left-handers. Johnson had been scheduled to start Wednesday's series finale.

Yankee Doodle Dandies

A pair of American League East owners celebrate birthdays today, on the nation's birthday.

New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos share July 4 as their birth dates.

Is that all they have in common? So far, an argument could be made for that being the case. Angelos, who turns 65 today, took majority ownership of the Orioles on Oct. 4, 1993 and he hasn't fired a general manager or a manager yet.

Around the horn

Lonnie Smith is on the disabled list with an apparent inflammation of the roster, check that, a strained left knee. . . . Ryan Hendricks, son of Orioles bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks, leads the Orioles' rookie-ball team in Bluefield with a .488 on-base percentage and has one home run in 30 at-bats. The younger Hendricks is a first baseman who was chosen in the 38th round of the June draft. . . . Mike Mussina's five home runs allowed Friday night was a first for an Orioles pitcher since Jim Palmer did the same June 22, 1977 against these Boston Red Sox: George Scott, Jim Rice, Butch Hobson, and two by Carlton Fisk. The longer Mussina pitches, the more, it seems, his name crops up next to Palmer's.

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