DETROIT -- Nobody had asked Jeffrey Hammonds about his surgically reconstructed knee -- no coaches, no players, no reporters -- for about two weeks, which speaks volumes about his progress.
"It's a dead issue, I hope," Hammonds said before last night's game. "I'm playing regularly, so I'm not really thinking about it much, and that's half the battle.
"I've got to go out and perform. Not just play, but perform."
Hammonds said he has improved to the point where he can produce on a daily basis. Now he wants to take his play to the next level. There have been times, Hammonds acknowledged, when he feels his old explosiveness. When he tripled against California last weekend, a number of friends and family told him they thought he had been running well, perhaps the best he had run this year.
"It's good right now, real good," Hammonds said. "I'm beginning to run with -- I don't want to say reckless abandon -- unconditionally. I'm getting more and more comfortable."
Before going 0-for-4 last night, Hammonds had hits in 15 of the first 17 games he started since returning from the minors May 26. Since then he is batting .286 with four doubles, a triple and three homers.
Goodwin off to record start
Center fielder Curtis Goodwin is off to perhaps the best start in Orioles history. It took Sam Bowens 69 at-bats to achieve his 23rd hit, Chito Martinez 75 at-bats, Hammonds 76 at-bats, Rich Coggins 79 at-bats. Goodwin, who got robbed on one of several fine defensive plays by Detroit third baseman Travis Fryman last night, has 22 hits in just 57 at-bats, meaning that even if he went 1-for-11, he would have achieved his 23rd career hit faster than any Orioles player ever.
Regan and pitching coach Mike Flanagan met yesterday with Alan Mills, whose ERA has soared to 8.55. Flanagan said afterward that they just wanted to reassure Mills, talk to him, ask if he felt OK, etc.
Flanagan was asked if he thought Mills had lost his confidence.
"Oh, sure, everybody does when things aren't going right," Flanagan said. "Obviously, you're much more sure of yourself when things are going well.
"The war for a pitcher cannot be him against himself. There cannot be success until the war is the pitcher against the hitter."
Regan said earlier this week that Mills is consistently being clocked in the mid-90s, so there's no question whether his arm his sound. But he's had trouble establishing another pitch, and when he throws his fastball, he's not placing it well.
"His problem has been control in the strike zone," Flanagan said.
Mills' struggles continued last night. The first batter he faced, Juan Samuel, lined a double that plated two runs with the help of a Hammonds error.
Around the horn
Sid Fernandez will make a rehabilitation start for Double-A Bowie today. He will make roughly 80 pitches against Canton-Akron. . . . Regan announced that right-hander Scott Klingenbeck will start against New York tomorrow night. The Orioles are expected to promote left-hander Arthur Rhodes to start Tuesday, and the logical move would be to send Klingenbeck down and recall Rhodes. Regan and Flanagan had talked about starting Jamie Moyer against the Yankees. But if Moyer started and pitched just a few innings, as he has done in his first starts this year, the Orioles could exhaust their bullpen a day before Rhodes pitched. Rhodes pitched against the Yankees on May 19 and lasted just three innings. . . . Orioles third baseman Jeff Manto is trying to get signatures from all the living players who have homers in four straight at-bats. Manto tied that major-league record last weekend. . . . Shortstop Cal Ripken didn't hit into a single double play in his first 44 games. Then he hit double-play grounders on Friday and last night.
NB Approximate tickets remaining for the Orioles' next homestand:
Date ... ... ... Opponent ... ... ... Tickets
Monday .. .. ... N.Y. Yankees ... ... 4,500
Tuesday .. .. .. N.Y. Yankees ... ... 5,000
Wednesday .. ... N.Y. Yankees ... ... 4,500
Thursday ... ... Boston ... ... .. .. 7,000
Friday ... .. .. Boston ... ... .. .. 3,500
Saturday ... ... Boston ... ... .. .. 2,000
June 25 .. .. .. Boston ... ... .. .. 2,500
HITS AND MISSES
On the field: When Kevin Bass plays, Kevin Bass hits. Starting at designated hitter against left-hander David Wells, Bass singled in the second inning to set up Jeff Manto's two-run homer, walked and stole second in the fifth inning, and hit a game-tying base-empty homer in the seventh.
In the dugout: Because left-hander Wells pitched last night, manager Phil Regan changed his lineup around and added a couple of right-handed hitters. Manny Alexander moved into the second spot in the order, Bass replaced Harold Baines as the DH and Jeffrey Hammonds stepped into the lineup for Andy Van Slyke.
In the clubhouse: "I think he was rushing a little bit. I don't think he had his good sinker tonight. Everything he threw was pretty much up in the strike zone. He threw a high ball to [Chad] Curtis [in the fourth inning] and Curtis is a high-ball hitter. You can't do that." -- Regan, on Kevin Brown.