SARASOTA, Fla. -- If an enemy advance scout was lurking in the stands during the Orioles' 7-4 victory over the Chicago White Sox here yesterday, he would've jotted down this note: "Arm of catcher Chris Hoiles questionable."
Hoiles, hampered by a sore shoulder this spring, played for the first time in a week. His shoulder is feeling better and he's expected to be in the lineup Opening Day, but he threw poorly.
In the first inning, White Sox designated hitter Tim Raines stole second easily, Hoiles' throw bouncing far in front of the base. Then, in the second inning, Chicago second baseman Ray Durham bolted for second, and Hoiles just held the ball.
"We told Chris not to throw hard," said Orioles manager Phil Regan. "He said it felt much better, but I didn't want him to come back and air it out and get hurt again."
Hoiles' shoulder started bothering him early in camp, as it has in previous springs.
"I wasn't worried at all," said Hoiles. "I'll probably play in the rest of these [exhibition] games, then take Tuesday off and go get them on Wednesday."
Wednesday, of course, being Opening Day, in Kansas City.
Others fighting off nagging injuries include left fielder Brady Anderson, who had ingrown toenails in both feet removed Friday, and first baseman Rafael Palmeiro, hampered somewhat by a slight groin pull.
The waiting game
The Orioles have 32 players remaining in camp, and must get down to 28 by midnight tomorrow. Among the 32 are four catchers, and at least one -- in all likelihood, Cesar Devarez -- is headed to the minors, and Greg Zaun could go as well if Regan decides to carry two catchers instead of three. Early last week, Regan seemed to be leaning toward three catchers, but he's been pleased with the defensive play of Matt Nokes in the past week and could be comfortable with two.
If Regan goes with two catchers, he could keep as many as seven outfielders (and DH Harold Baines). Keeping three catchers likely means that Regan will have to cut Jeff Manto, Damon Buford or Jack Voigt.
Manto acknowledged that the last few days of spring training are a nervous time for those trying to win jobs. "You start trying to put 2 and 2 together," Manto said. "You try to play general manager. A lot of stuff goes through your mind, but you've got to worry about the job in front of you. Sometimes it's tough."
Buford may be on solid ground because Andy Van Slyke still needs some time to get in game condition, and Buford could start the year splitting time in center field with Van Slyke. Manto is hitting .190 (4-for-21) this spring, but two of his four hits have been homers, including a 425-foot shot that beat the White Sox yesterday. Regan likes Voigt for his versatility, and Voigt hit .250 in exhibitions.
Regan had said earlier that he planned to start the year with 13 pitchers, but because the starters are beginning to extend their innings, he may go with 12. Scott Klingenbeck, Mike Oquist and Joe Borowski are vying for the last one or two spots on the staff, with Klingenbeck seemingly the front-runner. The Orioles must keep Oquist, who is out of options, or expose him to waivers.
To add outfielder Kevin Bass to the 40-man roster, the Orioles will have to make room today or tomorrow.
Goodwin demoted, with praise
The Orioles optioned outfielders Curtis Goodwin and Jim Waw- ruck to Triple-A Rochester yesterday morning. Regan talked about starting the year with Goodwin as his leadoff hitter and everyday center fielder, but the addition of Van Slyke and Bass precluded that.
When Regan told Goodwin that he was going to Triple-A, Goodwin wondered aloud who was leading the International League in stolen bases, and how many Mr. X had.
"He went down with a great attitude," Regan said. "I'm telling you, he's going to be a big-leaguer, and he's going to be a great player. He's a guy who could really bring excitement to the ballpark."
Around the horn
Mike Mussina allowed seven hits, a walk and four runs in three innings against the White Sox, in his last tuneup before pitching in the opener at Kansas City. Mussina was hit hard in his last spring outing last year, too, and then pitched exceptionally on Opening Day. . . . Brad Pennington has had an exceptional spring, allowing no runs and two hits in seven innings; he threw three shutout innings against the White Sox. . . . Bass went 2-for-3 and is batting .429. . . . The Orioles stole three more bases, giving them 14 for the spring. Several have come on the delayed steal. . . . Right fielder Jeffrey Hammonds, coming off off-season knee surgery, is moving well and batting .353. . . . The line of White Sox reliever Rob Dibble against the Orioles: one inning, one hit, one walk, two strikeouts, and five or six very audible expletives. . . . Shortstop Cal Ripken did not play. He returned to Maryland on Friday. . . . Chicago starter Jim Abbott threw five shutout innings, allowing two hits and a walk, with two strikeouts. . . . Infielder Jeff Huson, who's been playing for Triple-A Rochester, is expected to be in uniform for today's exhibition against Philadelphia. . . . Infielder Junior Noboa, who would've been a nonroster invitee if the Orioles had started spring training on time, was released by Triple-A Rochester after yesterday's game.
The Orioles' roster is down to 32 players, including nonroster player Kevin Bass. Four must be cut to get to 28 by Opening Day on Wednesday.
Andy Van Slyke
UPS AND DOWNS
The good and the bad from the Orioles' 7-4 exhibition victory over the Chicago White Sox yesterday.
* The Orioles came back from a 4-0 deficit with a six-run eighth inning. Jeff Manto, trying to make the team as a utility man, hit a two-run homer.
* Reliever Brad Pennington threw three shutout innings.
* Reliever Armando Benitez had his best outing of the spring, striking out two in one scoreless inning.
* Reliever Alan Mills walked the first two hitters he faced, then came back to pitch two scoreless innings and earn the save.
* Starter Mike Mussina had a bad outing, allowing seven hits, a walk and four runs in three innings.
* Catcher Chris Hoiles threw poorly and was charged with an error when he dropped a throw.
* Second baseman Bret Barberie went 0-for-3 and is 1-for-18 (.054) this spring. Barberie led all major-leaguers with nine walks before yesterday's exhibition.