Leadoff shuffle gives Miller winning hand; Anderson, DeShields drop out, open door for Kingsale; 20-20 vision faces Ripken


Ray Miller went through three leadoff hitters yesterday before the game had even started.

The Orioles manager received a call from Brady Anderson, saying he had been feeling sick most of the night. Miller told Anderson to try to get to the ballpark before the game to see a doctor. He was at Camden Yards about 90 minutes before the first pitch, resting in the darkened players lounge.

"I guess it's the stomach flu," Miller said.

Miller then wrote in Delino DeShields' name atop the order as the designated hitter, the Delaware native's first start since Sept. 2. But DeShields vetoed the move because of continuing discomfort in his right quadriceps.

"I checked with him. I said, 'Are you OK with that?' And he said, 'Not really.' I think he's concerned about extending that leg too much," Miller said.

Going back to the drawing board, Miller moved up rookie center fielder Eugene Kingsale to the leadoff spot and inserted Derrick May as the DH, batting him seventh. It was the first time someone other than Anderson had hit first since DeShields made his final start.

Kingsale led off the first inning with a bunt single, but was picked off by Freddy Garcia. He also singled in the fourth, but saved the best for last, grounding a two-run single into right field in the eighth inning that broke a 2-2 tie.

3,000 hit vision is 20-20

Two singles by Cal Ripken yesterday left him 20 hits shy of 3,000 with 20 games remaining.

Miller recently had suggested that he would elevate Ripken in the order to provide more at-bats. Ripken hit fifth twice in Minnesota last week, but Miller now seems intent on keeping the Iron Man in the sixth slot, where he was positioned yesterday.

Miller doesn't want to disrupt the five hitters normally ahead of Ripken -- Anderson, Mike Bordick, B. J. Surhoff, Albert Belle and Jeff Conine -- who are compiling strong offensive numbers.

"I don't even think Cal would want that at the expense of someone who's really putting it together," Miller said. "And I really like having that .300-plus hitter in the sixth spot. That's not too bad."

J. Johnson's blister healing

Jason Johnson said the blister on his right middle finger that has been present for his last five starts should be healed enough to allow him to pitch on Thursday.

Johnson has been using a variety of substances between starts to dry the blister, including pickle juice. To give it extra time, Miller will use Johnson on seven days' rest.

"It's really more of a callous that starts bleeding," said Johnson, who had to leave his last start in Minnesota after five shutout innings. "I'm positive that it'll be healed up by [Thursday]. It already looks 100 percent better.

"I'm sure this will be the only time that I have a problem with it. Next year I'm sure it'll be 100 percent the whole year. I'm going to make sure I work on it the whole off-season to get it calloused up nice and strong."

Johnson has won his last three decisions, improving to 6-7.

Conine hits out of skid

Conine went into yesterday's game in a 1-for-16 slide, but Miller said he didn't believe it was necessary to give him a breather. Conine, making his 27th consecutive start at first base, proved the manager right by stroking a two-run single in the first inning.

"If I saw any inkling of him being tired, I'd have him out of there," Miller said, "but he's hitting nothing but rockets all over the ballpark. Line drives to left field, line drives to short. He came into the dugout and said, 'I've just got to get better direction. I'm hitting the ball good, it's just not going anywhere.'

"I'm really not concerned about it. He's been a [heck] of an acquisition for us."

Linton pushed out

Wading through a rotation that temporarily included seven starters, Miller said he'll return Doug Linton to the bullpen.

Linton held Seattle to one run through five innings Friday before allowing three in the sixth on back-to-back homers by Alex Rodriguez and Edgar Martinez. In his previous start, he allowed one run in seven innings to defeat Cleveland for his first victory in the majors since 1996.

Miller praised Linton for his poise in the Seattle game, but was disappointed with an 0-2 pitch that hit Ken Griffey in the back with one out in the sixth. The Mariners' dugout stirred, and Rodriguez and Martinez unloaded to erase the Orioles' 3-1 lead.

"You saw the reaction. They weren't too happy, and then the next two guys hit bombs," Miller said.

Linton is being squeezed from the rotation by the return of Mike Mussina, the continued excellence of Doug Johns and the addition of 20-year-old Matt Riley, who's slated to start Wednesday's game against Oakland.

Around the horn

Mussina threw again yesterday without any setbacks, keeping him in line for Tuesday's start against Oakland. It will be Mussina's first appearance since being hit behind the right shoulder by a line drive Aug. 22 against Chicago. The Orioles are 60-6 when leading after eight innings. Mike Timlin, who recorded his 21st save yesterday despite a throwing error and hit batter, has converted 12 consecutive save chances. The last of his eight blown saves occurred on July 1. Yesterday's crowd of 47,903 was the 15th sellout this season and raised the season total for 70 home dates to 2,987,225.

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