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Regan loves N.Y. for wild card


The New York Yankees are the team to beat in the American League wild-card race, Orioles manager Phil Regan said.

"I think the Yankees have the most talent to win," Regan said. "You look at their lineup last night, you look at their bench -- three left-handers, three right-handers, a switch-hitter. Their bullpen's pretty good. To me, they have a pretty good ballclub."

The Yankees also have done a pretty good job at extinguishing controversy.

Darryl Strawberry hasn't been a big distraction and neither has the recent problem with fellow newcomer Ruben Sierra.

Two nights ago, Sierra's agent called manager Buck Showalter because Sierra was unhappy with his playing time.

Showalter hung up on the agent but yesterday acted as though the incident never happened, or at least didn't bother him.

"[The agent] was trying to get word to me that Ruben wanted to sit down and talk with me," Showalter said. "He just should have gone through Gene [Michael, general manager] on that."

Showalter did not hold it against Sierra, who was in the lineup last night as the designated hitter.

"With Ruben, a lot of things get lost in intent," Showalter said.

Sierra apparently told his manager that he's healthy enough to play in the outfield.

Showalter had nothing but praise for Sierra, acquired six weeks ago from the Oakland Athletics for fellow slugger Danny Tartabull.

"Ruben's been good here," Showalter said. "He's been a pretty productive player when he's been in there. He's been a real good acquisition for us."

Weak pen, strong Jones

The bullpen has been a major problem for the Orioles, but Doug Jones isn't part of the trouble, Regan said.

"I don't have a problem [with Jones' performance]," Regan said. "If you look at our trouble innings, it's been the seventh and eighth innings, to get to our closer."

Jones has not had many save opportunities. He leads the team with 22 saves and is 0-4 with a 5.24 ERA, but has not pitched well at home.

"I think Doug has probably felt some pressure here in Camden Yards because of replacing Lee Smith," Regan said. "I think he's tried to do really well. Maybe that's the reason he does not pitch as well here as he does at home."

Crowded at third

With Bobby Bonilla playing third base for the rest of the season, Jeff Manto will see less playing time.

Manto, the designated hitter last night, is pleased with his up-and-down season. His numbers (.253 batting average, 17 home runs and 37 RBIs) do not reflect Manto's accomplishments.

"When I look back, I'll definitely be grateful to the Orioles for giving me the opportunity for the previous 10 years I haven't been given," Manto said. "I was able to back up what I've been saying for 10 years -- that I can play in the big leagues."

A hamstring injury that forced Manto on the disabled list July 13 derailed a tremendous home run streak (he homered in four consecutive at-bats June 8-10). He has lost his third base job to Leo Gomez, Jeff Huson and now Bonilla.

Bonilla may have the inside track on that job next season. Manto doesn't mind.

"I just hope I get a fair shot in spring training," Manto said. "If I don't get the third base job, I hope I can get a utility job and go from there."

Hoiles to stay close

Chris Hoiles is planning to spend his off-season in Baltimore, Regan said.

Hoiles will take a three-week vacation and then return to Baltimore to begin an intensive conditioning program.

"He's going to try to eliminate the slow starts he has each year," Regan said of his $17.25 million catcher.

Hammonds swinging

Orioles outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds took early batting practice under the watchful eye of Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson, who is working in the Yankees' front office.

Hammonds hit several balls out of the park for Mr. October. He also took regular batting practice, but has not received permission from team doctors to begin throwing.

"Jeffrey swung good, he felt pretty good," Regan said. "Not much has changed from yesterday."

Hammonds, who has been relegated to pinch-running duty, is unlikely to return this season.

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