Just hitting stride, Hoiles hoping leg OK


The Orioles still do not know what to do about Chris Hoiles, but they've prepared for the worst -- calling up catcher Cesar Devarez from Triple-A Rochester and demoting pitcher Armando Benitez.

Hoiles walked around the clubhouse yesterday with a noticeable limp after injuring his left hamstring Saturday night.

"I'm feeling better," Hoiles said. "It's a day-to-day thing."

Team officials have not decided whether to put Hoiles on the disabled list, but the catcher would like to play through his injury, which is described as a cross between a bad cramp and a mild strain.

"I'd like to wait a couple days and see [how] it feels," said Hoiles, who will undergo tests and treatment today.

That's because Hoiles was just getting on track after one of the worst starts of his career.

He pulled up rounding first Saturday night in what should have been a second-inning double.

It was part of a hot streak in which Hoiles had raised his average 38 points (to .209) since July 2, hitting .400 (12-for 30) with four doubles, two home runs and eight RBIs.

Team officials have told Hoiles to wait and see.

"You can't tell this quickly," Orioles general manager Roland Hemond said yesterday. "It hasn't even been 24 hours. We'll have a better idea tomorrow night. We'll see how it responds."

More roster moves

Hemond is buying time with Hoiles before he is forced to activate scheduled starter Kevin Brown off the 15-day disabled list before tonight's game.

If Hoiles speedily recovers, Devarez may return to Rochester. Less likely options include waiving or trading Leo Gomez or demoting Jeff Huson, Mike Oquist or Arthur Rhodes.

Devarez arrived yesterday morning at 8:30, fresh off a 6:30 a.m. flight from Syracuse. The catcher was hitting .252 (37-for-148) with seven doubles, one triple, one home run and 17 RBIs at Rochester and had thrown out 17 of 36 base runners.

He did not play in his major-league call-up earlier this season.

Benitez accepts new

Orioles manager Phil Regan, with a gaggle of relievers who can pitch only one inning, said he would like to see Benitez go to Rochester and learn how to pitch two or three.

The best role for Benitez, Regan said, is an undefined one.

"We don't want to tell him how he's going to be used because we don't want him to have the preconceived idea he's going to pitch one inning," Regan said. "I'd like to see him extend himself and pitch two or three innings. When he comes back, it will help us."

Benitez left his meeting with Regan, Hemond and assistant general manager Frank Robinson slightly disappointed but without incident. He calmly talked with reporters and seemed optimistic about his return.

"I'll go down and work hard," Benitez said. "I'll come back, but I don't know when I'll come back."

Gaining ground at plate

The Orioles are 12-6 and have gained four games in the standings since June 24, moving from nine to five games behind Boston, largely because of their improved offensive production.

The Orioles are batting .298 and averaging 5.8 runs during that stretch. Before that, the Orioles were batting .260 and scoring 4.8 runs.

The team's starters are 10-4 with a 3.68 ERA and the overall team ERA is 3.59 during that period.

Brown mum on Texas

Kevin Brown is making his first start against his former team, the Texas Rangers, tonight, but he isn't saying much about it. He wants his performance to speak for itself.

"I can't talk about going back there," Brown said. "Talk to me after the game."

Royals call up Bunch

Kansas City called up Melvin Bunch, yesterday's starter, from Triple-A Omaha. Bunch was 0-0 with a 5.40 ERA in four games with Omaha, after being sent down on May 24.

Bunch replaced shortstop Edgar Caceres, who was placed on rTC the 15-day disabled list. He injured his right kneecap when he was hit by a Scott Erickson pitch in the seventh inning on Saturday.

"It might be a fracture," Caceres said yesterday. "My knee is swollen badly and bleeding. It's pretty stiff and I can't bend it."

Around the horn

Cal Ripken and Orioles teammate Brady Anderson saw their four-game multi-hit streaks ended. It was the first time in 37 games the Orioles did not have a player with at least two hits. . . . The Orioles, who got only four hits, are 1-10 when getting five hits or fewer.

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