Ben McDonald said yesterday he is looking forward to "going home, regrouping and coming back strong" after the All-Star break.
TC If he hadn't lost a tense 1-0 duel to California's Mark Langston on Saturday night, he may have been going to Pittsburgh instead as an American League All-Star.
"Had I won that game, I might have had a chance," said McDonald (10-6). "It would have been the 11th [victory], so I think at least I would have been considered. That's the way it goes."
The right-hander never has been an All-Star during a five-year career and said he would be honored to appear in the game.
"I would love to have gone," said McDonald. "It's something you want to do at least once in your career."
But with Mike Mussina and Lee Smith already attending from the Orioles, the AL staff might have gotten a bit overloaded.
"That would have been real tough, to take three pitchers off the same team," said McDonald. "Mike's had a great season and what can you say about Lee. Even if I had won Saturday, I probably was a long shot."
McDonald plans to go to his place in Mississippi and get away from baseball for three days. "I want to see how things are going with the animals and the fishing," he said.
Beforehand, he will make a start against the surging Oakland A's tomorrow in the opener of the final series before the break.
Dwight Smith gets a start
Manager Johnny Oates started Dwight Smith in the outfield for the first time since June 27 last night and rested Chris Sabo.
"Chris has gone 24 or 25 straight days and gone hard, so he deserves a break," said Oates. "This will also give Dwight some at-bats he needs."
Last night, Smith went 2-for-3 with an RBI. In his previous start at Cleveland, he went 0-for-5, but drove home a run. His biggest hit this season was a bases-empty homer in a victory at Toronto.
"It doesn't matter who you put out there, they're all playing well," said Oates. "Right now, it seems like everyone's contributing. As long as guys are producing, they will get some time."
Leo Gomez has bounced back from an ailing wrist that ruined his 1993 season, trade rumors all spring and the loss of his position to free- agent Sabo at the start of this year.
"I'm proud of myself because I've come a long way," said Gomez. "I went to spring training knowing I wasn't going to play. I put in my mind they were going to trade me. But here I am. It's a crazy game."
Gomez said he knew he was healthy again when he knocked home "about 35 runs in 50 games" in the Puerto Rican Winter League.
"I always wanted to stay here," he said. "But I wanted to play here, too. Now, I have that. I know if I go 0-for-4 one day, I don't
have to worry about being back in the lineup."
The Orioles last night surpassed 2 million in attendance on their 43rd home date, the earliest in history. The previous mark was set last season on the 45th date. . . . Oates said he is not tempted to use the red-hot Mark Eichhorn as a starter. "He's too valuable where he is right now," said the manager. "Better to be able to throw five every other day than five every fifth day." Eichhorn's ERA in his last 42 2/3 innings is 0.42. . . . Sid Fernandez felt fine after his start Monday and is scheduled to start against Oakland Saturday. "He says he feels pretty good and the arm was no problem," said Oates. Fernandez will not be on a strict pitch count, "but if he's able to go 110 to 115, that'll be plenty."