Manager Davey Johnson said the club is looking for Chris Hoiles' injury rehab assignment at Double-A Bowie to last about three days, meaning the catcher could return to the Orioles by Friday.
Hoiles has been on the disabled list with a slight tear of the medial collateral ligament in his right knee since Montreal's F. P. Santangelo ran into him at home plate during a June 16 game at Camden Yards. It originally was feared that he could be out for two months, but if he proves that the knee has healed enough to allow him to catch, he will be activated.
Hoiles said he'll probably catch four or five innings tomorrow, then be the designated hitter on Wednesday and catch five or six innings the next night. The Baysox pitcher Thursday probably will be Rocky Coppinger, who will work out here today before reporting to Bowie to continue rehabilitating his strained right elbow.
Hoiles caught in the bullpen Saturday night and woke up with some stiffness in the knee yesterday morning that loosened after he showered.
"We've got to be a little bit cautious with him," Johnson said. "Even though it would be nice to have him back, we've got to make sure he's going to be OK. You just don't want to bring him back and take a chance of reinjuring that leg. I do want him to be able to catch. That's important."
The position could use some help. Lenny Webster, playing despite a sore Achilles' tendon and a head cold, started again yesterday in the 95-degree heat after catching the first two games of this series. His backup, Tim Laker, is 0-for-13 since being called up from Triple-A Rochester on June 18 to replace Hoiles. He was just coming off the DL with a pulled hamstring, and missed all of the 1996 season with Montreal after having three operations on his right elbow, including tendon transplant surgery.
Hoiles was batting .284 with eight homers and 30 RBIs before the injury. "Personally, I think I could probably go out there and DH today," he said. "I'm not saying I'd be all that productive, but I don't think it would be a problem."
The club is hoping his return will give the offense a boost, which could put more distance between the Orioles and the New York Yankees, who are closing fast.
"Some of our main guys are down production-wise from where they were last year, and where they were the first part of the season," Johnson said. "We'll just keep going. The worm will turn.
"My job is to worry about it, but not show that I'm overly concerned about it. Today's a new day, let's go get them. Shoot, there's a lot of clubs that would like to trade where we're at. The last time I looked, we still had as few losses as any other team. It's not like we're playing very poor. We've just run into a little spell and we'll come out of it."
Waiting on Coppinger
Johnson said that Coppinger's return to the Orioles depends on how well he pitches in Bowie. He spent almost a month in Sarasota, going four innings in his last start on Saturday, and was deemed healthy enough to move up.
"It's all going to be performance-oriented," Johnson said. "He'll be there [today] and we'll check him out and know more after I see him throw."
Berroa moves up
Geronimo Berroa has one extra-base hit in 12 games as an Orioles since being acquired in a trade with Oakland on June 27. Yesterday, Johnson moved him up to second in the order, and Berroa went 1-for-4 with a walk, making him 8-for-48 with four RBIs and 12 strikeouts since coming to Baltimore.
"He's probably trying to do too much," Johnson said before the game. "When other guys are struggling, the new guy on the block is probably going to try to do too much.
"I've got him in the two-hole today because I'm tired of seeing them bring in a left-hander for [Brady] Anderson. Let them go through Berroa, and maybe he won't try to do too much. Instead of trying to hit it nine miles, maybe he'll just try to hit it four miles."
Johnson hasn't spoken much to Berroa other than offering a few encouraging words. "It's just kind of like, 'Hey, take it easy.' Pat a guy on the butt and say, 'Keep hacking,' " Johnson said.
That's never been a problem for Berroa, who is perpetual motion while in the batter's box and always appears to be trying to rip the cover off the ball.
"He always swings hard," Johnson said. "He's a nervous hitter who's going to swing a lot. That's the way he plays. He's going to look real funky and you'll say, 'How can he ever hit?' and then they'll throw a tough pitch and he'll hit a bullet. That's just him." Who could have expected the Brewers to leave Camden Yards with a sweep after facing the Orioles' Big Three of Jimmy Key, Scott Erickson and Mike Mussina?
Milwaukee manager Phil Garner wasn't surprised. He also wasn't armed with an explanation.
"I don't know why we can't beat anybody with an ERA of over 10, and we play pretty good against the better pitchers," he said. "We just faced a guy in Minnesota last week who had a 13 ERA in his last five or six starts. They were going to send him to the minors. He shuts us down. We don't get anything. Then we face good pitchers and we have pretty good at-bats. I don't understand what it is."
Around the horn
Rafael Palmeiro has six hits in his last 10 at-bats, all singles. He's batting .381 (16-for-42) in July. Anderson was 1-for-12 with a sacrifice fly in the series. The three-game series with Milwaukee drew 142,973, the second-largest three-game total ever at Camden Yards. Yesterday's crowd of 47,448 was the 22nd sellout in a row, and 25th overall this season. Roberto Alomar's two-run homer off Jeff D'Amico in the third broke the Orioles' 11-inning scoreless string against the Brewers' right-hander. Ticket availability: 1,300 tonight and 2,500 tomorrow vs. Toronto, 400 Wednesday and 300 Thursday vs. Boston, 200 Friday, 50 Saturday and 50 Sunday vs. Chicago.
Pub Date: 7/14/97