If extra swings in the cage and a steady diet of at-bats can't shake Mike Bordick's slump, maybe a night off will do the trick.

That was manager Davey Johnson's thinking as he started Jeff Reboulet at shortstop last night and gave Bordick his first breather this season.

Bordick, batting .143 (8-for-56) with no RBIs, went into Johnson's office before the game and said he had two hours to change his mind. No dice.

"He said he felt great and wanted in there," Johnson said. "I said, 'I know that. And I knew you were going to come in here. Why don't you just relax? I won't hesitate, if I need you, to go to you, but let's just take it easy.'

"When you struggle, sometimes if you can, sit back and look at what's going on out there. Bordick is a grinder and he tries so hard."

Last night's game didn't figure to ease Bordick's woes anyway. He's 1-for-17 lifetime against Chicago starter Jaime Navarro.

"I don't really want to sit, especially here in the early going," Bordick said before the game. "But I'm not going to argue with the manager's call. I just wanted to let him know I was ready to play."

And he didn't waste any time taking off his jacket in the second inning when Reboulet fouled a ball off his left ankle and limped around the plate in obvious pain. But Reboulet continued his at-bat and Bordick's laughing teammates threw him his jacket, which he put back on, albeit reluctantly.

Mills progressing slowly

Johnson didn't sound encouraged by the progress being made by reliever Alan Mills, who is eligible to come off the disabled list tomorrow. But the right-hander gave a better report.

Mills, who sustained a pinched nerve running into Lenny Webster in the outfield before the April 11 game against Texas, still is having trouble raising his left shoulder, which affects his motion and makes it more difficult to protect himself against line drives.

On a more positive note, he's able to turn his head more freely and said yesterday was the best he has felt, though he's not expected to be activated tomorrow.

"Hopefully, it will keep improving like that," he said. "The strength in my left arm is still down. It's not close to what it was before the injury. But my neck isn't stiff anymore.

"It's weird. The morning I woke up with no pain [Monday in Boston], we didn't do anything more or less than we had been doing for treatment, but they said that's the way it works. To me, I think it's basically a nerve. It's getting better, but it's taking too long."

Field of maladies

All of a sudden, Brady Anderson's cracked rib isn't such a big deal anymore. Just take a look at what's going on with the other outfielders.

Jerome Walton has been slowed by a pulled leg muscle, which acted up in the seventh inning Tuesday and limits his availability. Jeffrey Hammonds aggravated a tender groin while catching a sinking liner Monday in Boston, though he started in left field last night. Eric Davis was back in the lineup Tuesday after missing four games because of a leg strain and a shoulder contusion, and Johnson said he's probably not 100 percent. And B. J. Surhoff nearly went on the disabled list after pulling up Tuesday.

Perhaps the best news to come from the outfield in a while was Anderson's return there Monday after serving as the designated hitter. In a strange twist, he's now one of the Orioles' healthiest players at that position -- by default.

"He usually is," Johnson said.

Incaviglia gets some swings

Pete Incaviglia was the DH last night, and he figures to get more at-bats with all the injuries. He came into last night's game batting .125 (2-for-16) with one RBI and six strikeouts.

"I told him, 'Hey Inky, there's enough guys down that you're probably going to get in there now,' " Johnson said. "I thought he was going to pinch my head off."

Mascot madness

Webster was supposed to catch the first pitch from Coppin State coach Fang Mitchell before Tuesday's game, but didn't get the chance. That's because the Oriole Bird crouched in front of him, ignored Mitchell's motion to move aside and Webster's plea to get out of the way, and deflected the ball with his outstretched hand.

Webster was angry as he walked back to the dugout.

"I want to find out who's inside the Bird suit," he said yesterday.

Miller back in town

Former Orioles broadcaster Jon Miller will be host of a reception and silent auction of memorabilia to benefit Carver Center for Arts and Technology tomorrow at 7 p.m. at the Towson school. Tickets are $25.

Pub Date: 4/24/97

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