The arrival of rookie Cesar Devarez could have a dramatic effect on the Orioles' catching situation, affecting the playing time of reserve catcher Matt Nokes and starter Chris Hoiles.
Nokes has played very little behind the plate since he signed as a free agent and replaced Jeff Tackett as the Orioles' No. 2 catcher, and now he figures to be relegated entirely to an offensive role. Devarez will be the late-inning defensive specialist, a role that will impact Hoiles as well.
"When we got Nokes, we got him as an offensive player -- to hit, DH and be a part-time catcher," manager Phil Regan said. "I feel that one of the things we need is a catcher that can throw, that we can put in for defense and shut down running games."
The decision to carry three catchers apparently was made after the Orioles attempted yesterday to trade Nokes, but could not find any takers. He is batting .063 (2-for-32) but club officials are confident he'll bounce back to make a significant offensive contribution off the bench.
Hoiles spent part of the spring sidelined with a sore arm and has not been effective throwing out runners. He entered last night's game with a 19 percent success rate (5-for-26). Nokes has failed to throw out any of the eight runners who have tried to steal on him this year.
Devarez was throwing out nearly half the runners (48 percent) who challenged his arm at Rochester.
"We'll have him in in defensive situations, and a lot of times when we have a one- or two-run lead," Regan said. "I'm concerned about the number of stolen bases that we've had. . . . I think that [Hoiles'] arm is getting better, but we still need a catcher with an arm like Devarez."
Van Slyke stoic
Center fielder Andy Van Slyke did not want to go on the disabled list, but he didn't criticize the decision to disable him and call up rookie Curtis Goodwin.
"It's a process you obviously don't want to go through again and one I didn't think I'd have to go through again," Van Slyke said, "but I'm not doing the club any good by not being 100 percent."
Van Slyke said that he thought he could play his way back into shape, but club officials decided it would be best to go with a healthy Goodwin instead.
"It might be only a few more days," general manager Roland Hemond said, "but right now, every game is important. He didn't relish going on the DL, but he understands that it is for the good of the club."
Oakland Athletics starter Dave Stewart spent part of yesterday rehabbing a sore right groin, but he said he'll make his scheduled start against the Orioles tomorrow at Camden Yards.
"You know me," he said. "They'll have to shoot me to keep me from going out there."
Stewart was pitching well against the Orioles when he was forced out of a game at the Oakland Coliseum on May 23. He struggled badly in his next outing, but is confident that he'll be more effective tomorrow.
JTC "I've been hurting, but I'll be over .500 and I won't have a 7.52 ERA when this season is over," Stewart said.
Moyer stretches out
Left-hander Jamie Moyer threw 88 pitches in 3 2/3 innings in his first start of the season this week, and he said yesterday that he's close to the point where Regan and pitching coach Mike Flanagan won't have to keep him on a pitch count.
"I was surprised. I felt good," said Moyer, who will face the California Angels for the second straight time on Tuesday night. "When I came out of the game, I felt pretty good. I had no idea what to expect. It was April 4 for me, but I didn't feel tired.
"Personally, I'm not putting a limit on [pitches], but Phil or Flanny might have one. As far as how I feel, I feel good and strong."
Barberie gets the red out
Second baseman Bret Barberie found out this week that he has been suffering from a chronic allergic reaction to the contact lens solution that he has been using the past few years. The club hopes the discovery will allow him to get more comfortable at the plate, though he already has bounced back from a slow start with the bat.
"He's been playing four years with a sinus-like condition," Regan said. "If you know what it feels like to peel an onion, you know
what he has felt like every day for the past four years. He said this is the first day he has felt really good."
Barney out of hospital
Orioles public address announcer Rex Barney was released from the hospital and is resting comfortably at home after suffering a mild heart attack over the weekend. Barney will miss the entire homestand. He was replaced by WBAL-Radio's Jim West yesterday. WBAL's Pam Ward will fill in today and WJZ-TV's Stan Saunders tomorrow and Monday.
Jeffrey Hammonds was 2-for-3 last night and has rebounded since his 12-day assignment to Double-A Bowie. He hit .387 with 11 RBIs there but, more importantly, according to Regan, Hammonds recovered from the psychological trauma of his knee injury. "He got it in his mind that his leg was OK," Regan said.
McDonald on AL East race
Pitcher Ben McDonald isn't afraid to state the obvious. He knows that the Orioles have been fortunate that some of the other division contenders also have been struggling.
"If the Yankees were playing like they were at this time last year, we might be 12 games out right now," he said.
HITS AND MISSES
On the field: Kevin Brown gave the Orioles a sterling starting pitching effort, going eight innings, the seventh straight time he's pitched into at least the seventh. He allowed five hits and one run, walked one and struck out three.
In the dugout: Phil Regan put Curtis Goodwin in the leadoff position and moved Brady Anderson into the second spot. The move paid off: Goodwin singled to right, stole second, and scored on Rafael Palmeiro's double to tie the game at 1 in the first inning, then dragged a sacrifice bunt in the eighth inning to put the winning run in scoring position.
In the clubhouse: "I think it could be a good spark for us, I really do," Regan, on Goodwin's arrival.