Back stiffness forces Sabo out of the lineup again

OAKLAND, CALIF. — OAKLAND, Calif. -- Chris Sabo came out of a game with a back injury yesterday for the first time since coming off the disabled list May 22.

Leo Gomez hit for Sabo and replaced him at third base in the fifth inning of yesterday's series finale against the Oakland Athletics after Sabo experienced what the club termed mild back stiffness. He came out of a game last week with a strained hip.


Sabo has started 10 of the Orioles' past 11 games at third base and no longer is being used in the outfield. He won the full-time third base job back after Gomez cooled at the plate.

Gomez, who went 0-for-1 with a walk yesterday, has 10 hits in his past 73 at-bats (.137).


Gomez has platooned at designated hitter with Harold Baines, one of two platoons employed by Orioles manager Johnny Oates, who has been using Mike Devereaux in center field against left-handed pitchers and Dwight Smith in left against right-handers, with leadoff hitter Brady Anderson switching between the two outfield spots.

Orioles won't mess with Belle

Frank Robinson and Oates agree on at least one thing: Having the umpires check Albert Belle's bat just to mess with his head would not be a wise move.

"I don't think that would work," Robinson said. "The last thing I want is for Albert Belle to get mad. It would make him more determined and I don't want him any more determined than he already is up there."

Oates also failed to see any benefit in trying to rattle Belle.

"I would only check his bat or anyone else's bat if I thought they were doing something to it," Oates said. "If I've got a legitimate reason I will. Otherwise I won't. I don't think that would work. That might fire him up."

Oates and Robinson both said they never suspected Belle of corking his bat.

K? "Albert Belle doesn't have to cork his bat," Robinson said.


Sid gets vote of confidence

One day after left-hander Sid Fernandez said his performance made the Orioles regret they signed him to a three-year, $9 million contract, Oates said that was not the case.

"I'm not disappointed we signed him and I don't think anyone else is," Oates said. "He's got a lot of ballgames left to pitch for us. It's too early for us to start having second thoughts. He'll win a lot of ballgames for us."

Fernandez has allowed 23 home runs, tied for third most in the American League with the New York Yankees' Terry Mulholland. Only Minnesota's Jim Deshaies and Detroit's Mike Moore have allowed more.

"He's got to throw the ball to a better location," Oates said. "He's missing badly. The catcher is setting up away and he throws in. The catcher sets up inside and he throws away."

Fernandez said the most noticeable thing about changing leagues has been the difference in power hitting.


"It seems like every team in the American League has good power and not just one guy on each team," Fernandez said.

A high-ball, fastball pitcher, Fernandez does not plan to change his approach and Oates does not want him to. He only wants him to change his location.

"I don't care what league you are in," Oates said. "If you throw a fastball chest-high in the middle of the plate, they are going to hit it."

Nice catch

Catch of the day was made by Orioles left-handed bullpen catcher Sammy Snider, who while catching reliever Tom Bolton in the bullpen in right field reached his glove out to catch Terry Steinbach's foul ball.

Steinbach went on to strike out and was ejected when he disagreed with first base umpire John Hirschbeck, who ruled he had gone around on the checked swing.


Anderson suffers small cut

Anderson suffered a minor cut to his right ear and remained in the game after crashing into the edge of the Athletics' bullpen roof in left-field foul territory during the fourth inning yesterday.