CLEVELAND -- Orioles manager Phil Regan wants to close the gap on the Boston Red Sox to "four or five games by the All-Star break." To do that, he says, the Orioles need two things to happen.
No. 1: "We need more wins out of our No. 3 and No. 4 spots in the rotation," Regan said.
The Orioles lost the first seven games started by No. 3 starter Ben McDonald this season, but he has pitched better of late, winning two of his past three starts. However, the Orioles have had a terrible time getting any sort of consistency from the No. 4 and No. 5 spots in the rotation.
That's why the Orioles have inquired about Florida's David Weathers, Houston's Doug Drabek, Minnesota's Scott Erickson and Kevin Tapani, Detroit's David Wells and others in recent weeks. (They apparently can't touch their first choice, Drabek -- the Orioles are one of 10 teams he can't be traded to, according to the terms of his contract, and Drabek wants to stay in Houston.)
Another thing that must happen, Regan said, is that the Orioles need to get more production from their catchers. Chris Hoiles is hitting .191 with six homers and 19 RBIs, and Matt Nokes is batting .091 with two homers and six RBIs.
"Some day down the line, these guys are going to start hitting," Regan said. "And we need it. We need to get them going. To me, we're functioning everywhere else pretty well.
"We need a little spark out of that catcher spot. It doesn't need to be a lot, .250. If we get that, we could really make a move."
Van Slyke to return Friday
Andy Van Slyke, in the midst of a three-game minor-league rehab assignment, likely will be activated off the disabled list Friday. At the time a strained forearm knocked him out of the lineup, Van Slyke was the Orioles' everyday center fielder. Since then Goodwin has been averaging two hits a day, and Van Slyke returns as a fourth or fifth outfielder.
Van Slyke told Regan before the Orioles departed for Cleveland that he would do anything he could to help the team, play right or left field, pinch-hit, whatever. In his first game for Double-A Bowie on Monday, Van Slyke started in center field, and last night he played left field and went 2-for-4 with three RBIs in the Baysox's 7-6 loss to Reading.
"He's had a great attitude, and he'll play anywhere we want him to play," said Regan. "I don't anticipate we'll have any problems. Andy Van Slyke is going to have an impact on this team before the year's out."
Goodwin's fast track
Goodwin's fast track Rookie center fielder Curtis Goodwin has had at least two hits in 10 of his first 12 games in the majors.
"I'm taking it day by day," he said. "I'm just trying to get on base anyway I can. You don't expect to get two hits a game. I do expect to do well."
Goodwin said that opposing pitchers continue to throw him fastballs -- and he continues to hit them. Eventually, he says, they will start throwing him breaking pitches.
"That's when I'll start bunting," Goodwin said, smiling.
McDonald takes break
McDonald, scratched from his scheduled start today to give his tired right arm a couple of extra days, figures it's better to rest now than later. Regan had planned to pitch McDonald on three days' rest.
"I told Flanny [pitching coach Mike Flanagan] that in September, yeah, that would work," McDonald said. "The way the arm is feeling now, that would probably be the worst thing to do, because the last thing we want to do is fatigue it even more. The question I ask is, how would my next two starts have been?"
Around the horn
Sid Fernandez felt OK after throwing for seven or eight minutes Monday, but Regan said that the left-hander may be given a minor-league rehabilitation assignment. . . . Orioles third baseman Jeff Manto met and left tickets for six nuns who had taught him in kindergarten. Manto, who was hitless in 10 at-bats going into last night, went 2-for-4 with two singles and Leo Gomez doubled in his only at-bat as Regan lifted Ripken and Rafael Palmeiro in the eighth. . . . In the first and second innings, the Orioles are outscoring their opponents, 61-36. . . . Orioles who are hot: Harold Baines (5-for-13 with three walks in his past six games), Jeffrey Hammonds (batting .306 since being recalled from Double-A Bowie) and shortstop Cal Ripken (batting .364 his past 19 games).