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Mills gets second opinion on ailing elbow


CHICAGO -- Reliever Alan Mills, sent to the minors last month after struggling badly, visited noted sports doctor James Andrews this week on his own volition because of pain in his right elbow.

Mills, who walked five and allowed two hits and six runs in 2 2/3 innings in his only start for Triple-A Rochester, was scratched from his start Wednesday and visited Andrews that day. He was told to rest his sore elbow for two weeks.

At the time of his demotion, he had been examined by Orioles doctors, but told club executives this week that he wanted to see Andrews, and would pay for the visit himself.

Mills had told teammates in May that his arm was bothering him, but he said nothing about it to manager Phil Regan at the time.

McDonald pushes back return

During his workout Thursday, Ben McDonald began feeling a recurrence of the stiffness that forced him to the disabled list two weeks ago.

When he woke up yesterday, he still felt a little sore, so with Scott Erickson joining the club and able to pitch Sunday, McDonald was scratched from his start.

McDonald, however, does not think this little bout of soreness will affect his scheduled start next Friday, vs. Kansas City in Camden Yards.

"It's in the same spot as the first soreness I had," McDonald said. "It's not as bad, but it's to the point where maybe it was best I didn't pitch Sunday."

McDonald thinks he may have overexerted himself in his workout Thursday, because his arm felt so good.

Stamp of approval

The clubhouse reaction to the acquisition of Erickson was entirely favorable.

Chris Hoiles: "I think it's a good move. Anytime you can get a quality pitcher like [Erickson], you try to do it, especially with some of our studs [McDonald and Kevin Brown] on the disabled list.

"I think he's got quality stuff. The year they went to the World Series, he was probably one of the best pitchers in the game."

Brady Anderson: "He could be really good. I think it could help him a lot to pitch on our field, rather than in the Metrodome."

Rafael Palmeiro: "I think it's a good move for us. I guess they're having a garage sale there, huh? Let's go get Kirby Puckett."

Palmeiro said he thought the front office had been sending the message even before the Erickson deal that they were trying to win. "They [the front office] have been trying. They've been active."

McDonald: "Boston went out and got Rick Aguilera, so it looks like teams are trying to better themselves. Moves are being made, and this should definitely help us."

Decision time approaching

The Orioles have a number of roster moves to make, with three players coming off the disabled list _ third baseman Jeff Manto, McDonald and Brown.

Before last night's game, they outrighted right-hander John DeSilva to Triple-A Rochester and purchased the contract of left-hander Rick Krivda from Rochester. Krivda's start against the White Sox, however, could very well be his only appearance for the Orioles before he is returned to the minors; with the return of Brown and McDonald and the addition of Erickson, Krivda would be the club's seventh starter.

Regan is currently carrying 12 pitchers, but when Manto comes back, possibly in time for Thursday's game, the Orioles could go back to having 11 pitchers -- Mussina, Brown, McDonald, Jamie Moyer and Erickson in the rotation, and Doug Jones, Terry Clark, Jesse Orosco, Mark Lee and Sid Fernandez in the bullpen for sure. (Although Fernandez is buried deep in the Orioles bullpen and will rarely pitch other than in blowouts, the team has shown no interest in just releasing him and paying off the balance of his three-year, $9 million contract that runs through next year).

That means the Orioles basically will have these choices:

* They could keep Mike Oquist as their long reliever and return Armando Benitez to the minors, or vice versa. Oquist has pitched well in his role as long man, but Benitez gives the Orioles a right-hander who can get a strikeout in the last innings. The Orioles would have to pass Oquist through waivers to return him to Triple-A.

One factor working in Oquist's favor: Regan and pitching coach Mike Flanagan love having him on the team because of his work ethic.

* They could keep both Oquist and Benitez and continue carrying 13 position players, as they have been. In that case, they would have to clear one spot to activate roster. Jeff Huson would be a possibility, but he's played well and Regan seems to like him. The Orioles could decide to cut their losses and make some sort of move involving either Leo Gomez or Bret Barberie, two infielders making more than $900,000 who aren't playing much.

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