Orioles manager Phil Regan is not worried about his team losing its momentum over the All-Star break. With a makeshift starting rotation, the Orioles won 12 of their past 17 games, swept Chicago and finished the first half six games out of first place. The imminent return of starting pitchers Kevin Brown and Ben McDonald, Regan said, will keep the Orioles on the winning track.
"The momentum is going to be there now that we have our pitchers back with McDonald and Brown, plus we have [Scott] Erickson," Regan said before his team's three-hour workout yesterday. "The momentum should take a swing upward."
McDonald will start tomorrow against Kansas City and Brown on Monday in Texas.
Brown threw about 50 pitches in a simulated game after yesterday's workout and shrugged off any effects from the dislocated right index finger he sustained June 22.
"The only thing is it's a little bit swollen, that's it, it doesn't hurt," Brown said. "I feel good physically, at this point that's all you can go on."
Regan liked what he saw during Brown's workout, standing behind the mound with pitching coach Mike Flanagan as Brown threw fastballs, sliders, sinkers and even a new changeup. Regan also marveled at Brown's mental toughness.
"He didn't even mention his finger," Regan said. "That's a good sign."
McDonald (strained right shoulder) is not as physically ready to pitch as Brown but is mentally ready to get on the mound.
"I want to pitch Friday," McDonald said. "I'm at the point where it's the best I'm going to get. As long as it doesn't get any worse, at that point, I can get through the season."
McDonald threw Tuesday at his home in Louisiana and felt much better than when he threw on the side Thursday in Chicago. He estimated that his shoulder, which has been hampered by chronic tendinitis, is still only 90 percent, but that with the proper exercise it will return to full strength.
"It's not tender, it's a weakness more than anything," McDonald said. "Hopefully I can work the weakness out of there and have a strong second half."
Regan said yesterday that McDonald will be ready to go tomorrow, but Arthur Rhodes' presence in the bullpen could come in handy, especially with the left-handed bats of the likes of Bob Hamelin, Wally Joyner and Tom Goodwin in Kansas City's lineup.
Neither McDonald nor Brown will be put on the active roster before tomorrow, Regan said. The manager met with general manager Roland Hemond and assistant GM Frank Robinson before yesterday's workout but no final decisions have been made on how to trim the roster. Rhodes and relief pitcher Joe Borowski are possible candidates to return to the minor leagues.
With the release of Sid Fernandez, the Orioles' roster currently stands at 24, one shy of the 25-man limit.
That could change after third baseman Jeff Manto's appearance with the Single-A Frederick Keys last night in Wilmington, Del.
Manto, who as a designated hitter was 1-for-4 for Bowie on Friday and 2-for-4 with a home run for Frederick on Sunday, went 1-for-4 with an RBI single last night for the Keys. Based on the reports from that game, Manto (pulled left hamstring) may be back in the Orioles' starting lineup tonight.
"It depends on how he feels," Regan said.
NOTES: Manto wasn't the only one absent from yesterday's mandatory workout. Cal Ripken received a day off after his 2-for-3 performance in Tuesday's All-Star Game, Erickson returned to Minnesota to move his things to Baltimore, and first baseman Rafael Palmeiro received permission from Regan to spend an extra day at his Texas home.
Regan flip-flopped Erickson and Jamie Moyer in the Orioles' rotation this weekend so Erickson and Brown do not pitch back-to-back. Moyer, who now pitches Sunday, is a left-hander who will break up the right-handed ground ball pitchers, Erickson and Brown.