Hammonds eager to get back in the swing


MINNEAPOLIS -- Sitting down and taking a day off, in theory, can almost sound appealing, especially if you're coming back from reconstructive knee surgery, as is Orioles outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds.

But when it's the beginning of the season and everybody is getting cranked up and your name disappears from the lineup for a couple of days, that's hard.

That Hammonds has sat out the last two days is not a surprise. Orioles manager Phil Regan said he was going to keep Hammonds off the Metrodome artificial surface in two of the four games with the Twins.

At the time, Hammonds said he understood, and he still does. In theory. But he wants to play.

"Most definitely," Hammond said yesterday. "Baseball's back, and I want to believe I'm back. I'm looking forward to the day I can shed this brace and really make this knee work, and that'll be in the very near future."

Gomez not smiling

Third baseman Leo Gomez was as stunned as the Orioles were by the wide gap in his arbitration numbers. Gomez asked for twice as much as the Orioles are offering, $1.85 million compared to $925,000.

And he's not happy.

"We're going to go to arbitration," Gomez said emphatically. "The numbers aren't anywhere close to where we want them."

:. The difference, Gomez said, is "big time."

Van Slyke a hit

Now that the season has begun, it's hard to imagine the Orioles' lineup with Curtis Goodwin, and without center fielder Andy Van Slyke, who has two homers and is hitting .286.

"He's swinging well, he's running well, he looks like he's in great shape," said Regan. "To me, that's a great signing for us."

Around the horn

Before Kevin Brown gave up a homer to Scott Leius last night, he had faced 195 batters in the Metrodome without being touched for a long ball -- the longest such streak for any AL pitcher in a visiting ballpark. . . . Milwaukee will start Ricky Bones, Cal Eldred and Bob Scanlan in the three games at Camden Yards this week, to pitch against Mike Mussina, Ben McDonald and Sid Fernandez, respectively. . . . Reliever Armando Benitez always has seemed to be pitching in trouble, but the numbers bear out one truth -- no one is hitting him. Before last night's game, opposing batters were hitting .091 against Benitez. On the other hand, they were batting .625 against Jamie Moyer, .583 against Alan Mills and 1.000 against Jesse Orosco (1-for-1). . . . The Orioles were hitting .333 with runners in scoring position. They ranked 13th among 14 AL teams in fielding, with a .952 fielding percentage. . . . Brad Pennington, on the bullpen: "Ithink it'll be fine, once we settle down and the starters are going six or seven innings consistently."

Parting shot

The Metrodome field was set up for a softball game yesterday before the Twins-Orioles game, with bases and the pitcher's mound laid out close together.

The softball diamond gave pitching coach Mike Flanagan occasion to joke about the slow start of the Orioles' staff.

"See, we had them take the mound in," Flanagan said. "It's a foot closer, so we should be OK. It saves the arms."


On the field: Minnesota killed the Orioles on Friday night with a series of bloopers and bleeders and broken-bat hits, but last night, the Orioles had the bounces going their way, with a fair share of cheapies. "We gave them a little bit of their own medicine," said pitcher Kevin Brown.

In the dugout: Before last night's game, manager Phil Regan said right fielder Jeffrey Hammonds would play today. "But don't hold me to that," Regan said. "If Kevin Bass goes out and gets four hits, then I might have to re-think that." Bass had two hits, scored two runs and drove in two.

In the clubhouse: ESPN's "SportsCenter" blared in the background as happy Orioles ate their post-game meal, and the highlights of last night's game appeared on the screen. Bass watched himself lift a high pop that fell between shortstop Jeff Reboulet and left fielder Marty Cordova. "My first American League hit!" Bass yelled proudly.

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