ANAHEIM, Calif. -- For the third start in a row, Orioles ace Mike Mussina felt soreness in the shoulder blade area the day after pitching.
The good news was he didn't feel as sore the day after limiting the California Angels to two runs in seven innings in a game the Orioles lost in the ninth inning, 4-3.
Mussina took himself out after seven innings because he stiffened when the Orioles had a long inning.
"I'm sore, but I'm OK," Mussina said. "My last start it was really, really sore the next day."
Mussina was limited to 25 starts by soreness in the same area last year and he now knows he pitched at times when he should not have.
"I think I'm smart enough now to know when it's getting better and when it's getting worse," Mussina said. "It's getting better."
Mussina threw 95 pitches Saturday. He did not think it wise to go further once his shoulder stiffened.
"I'm more cautious than I have been in the past," Mussina said. "It's knowing what I'm capable of and when to be cautious."
Smith still the closer
Orioles closer Lee Smith, who allowed a ninth-inning home run to Bo Jackson then a run-scoring triple to Spike Owen in the ninth inning of Saturday's 4-3 loss to the Angels, prolonged a slump that started before the All-Star break.
Smith did not allow a run in 27 of his first 32 appearances of the season. He has allowed a run in each of his past four, each of his last five if the All-Star Game is included.
Nevertheless, Orioles manager Johnny Oates is not scrambling for ninth-inning alternatives yet.
"You keep sending him out there, but as you know with [Gregg] Olson, there's a limit to everything," said Oates, who took the closer job away from Olson early last season.
The limit has not been reached.
"He's still our closer," Oates said. "You don't panic that quick. The reason we are where we are is because of what he did for us in April, May and June. We need him if we're going to do anything. We've got to find a way to get him back on track, back having those 1-2-3 innings."
What would it take for Oates to make a change with his closer?
"There's no definite thing," Oates said. "It's a feel thing."
Meanwhile, Smith remains composed.
"I've been through it before," said Smith, a major-leaguer since 1980. "I'm going to win another. I'm going to save another. I'm going to lose another. You don't worry too much when you struggle and you don't get too excited when you're going good."
No rest for Rafael
The Orioles miss facing Randy Johnson for the third time in four series against the Seattle Mariners, which means Rafael Palmeiro will not get a day off.
Palmeiro does not play against Johnson because of his lack of success against him and because he found facing Johnson to have a lingering negative effect on his swing.
Palmeiro has started all but two games this season, once failing to start when Johnson pitched, and once missing a game due to an ingrown toenail June 4.
The pitching pairings for the three-game series at the Kingdome: Mike Oquist (3-2, 5.61) vs. George Glinatsis, who his making his major-league debut tonight at 11:05; Ben McDonald (11-6, 4.26) vs. Dave Fleming (6-10, 6.75), tomorrow night at 10:05; Sid Fernandez (6-4, 4.79) vs. Jim Converse (0-2, 10.04) at 3:35 p.m. Wednesday.
Glinatsis, 25, is a 6-foot-4 right-hander who was chosen by Seattle in the 32nd round of the June draft. Not a hard thrower, Glinatsis' best pitches are a sinker and a slider.
Tackett stars; Hoiles rests
Chris Hoiles, who has been behind the plate in 87 percent of the Orioles' innings, did not play in the day game after a night game.
The day off gave Hoiles a chance to rest a strained groin muscle that has not kept him out of the lineup.
Jeff Tackett played in Hoiles' place and drove in a run with a single in the fifth inning and drove in another with his second major-league triple in the seventh.