This weekend, Orioles catcher Chris Hoiles bypassed treatment on his right shoulder for the first time since the first week of spring training. No need -- his arm's improved. He can feel the difference.
And he can see the difference. Hoiles threw out two would-be base stealers yesterday, good, low throws, right to the bag, and he agreed it was the best he's thrown all year.
"This is definitely the best day I've had, as far as strength and accuracy," said Hoiles, who had thrown out six of 27 runners before yesterday.
Hoiles' shoulder began to bother him in the first days of camp, and he sat out much of the exhibition season. He started the season in the lineup, and Orioles manager Phil Regan said Hoiles was OK.
But it was obvious from the loop in his throws that he wasn't 100 percent.
"You go out and constantly worry about your arm bothering you," Hoiles said. "You're hoping guys don't go [and try to steal] because your arm is bothering you."
Hoiles continued to get treatment, heat and ice; a large red mark covers the back of his right shoulder, a burn from a heating pad. His arm strength has slowly returned.
"He's getting [his arm] in shape," said bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks, who works with the Orioles catchers, "and his footwork has gotten a little better behind the plate. What's really helping him is that he's speeded up his footwork."
Hoiles' improvement could affect a roster decision the Orioles will make on Friday when Andy Van Slyke comes off the disabled list. When catcher Cesar Devarez was called up, it was for the express purpose of playing late in games and shutting down base stealers. But with Hoiles throwing OK, there's not as much need for the rookie catcher.
Oquist holds the fort
Before Thursday's game, Regan and pitching coach Mike Flanagan sat down with their relievers and spelled out their specific roles.
Mike Oquist already knew what they were going to tell him: He's the guy who pitches when the starter gets bombed and attempts to keep the score close.
Like yesterday's game: starter Jamie Moyer allowed five runs in the first three innings, and Oquist took over and allowed no runs in 4 2/3 innings while the Orioles closed to 5-4.
"Mike was outstanding," said Regan. "He did what you want him to do in that situation, and that's keep us in the game."
On the bubble this spring and again in mid-May, Oquist said he's still not sure of his Orioles future.
"Who knows," he said. "This is baseball. You never know."