The Orioles' brief homestand got off to a soggy start, with last night's game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays postponed because of rain. It will be made up on June 8, which had been an open date for both clubs.
Another option was a day-night doubleheader tomorrow, which the Orioles opposed. Both clubs are off Thursday, but Tampa Bay wanted to avoid playing too many games in a row.
Fans possessing tickets for last night's game can use them on June 8. Put on hold was a two-game winning streak and the ovation awaiting Cal Ripken for collecting his 3,000th career hit in Minnesota on Saturday. The Orioles will honor his achievement in a ceremony before the April 30 game against the Texas Rangers.
Last night's postponement pushes Pat Rapp's start to tonight, with Mike Mussina taking the mound tomorrow. Jose Mercedes, who replaced Calvin Maduro as the fourth starter and had been scheduled to pitch tomorrow, will have his turn skipped because the club wants Sidney Ponson to work on four days' rest. Ponson threw a shutout on Sunday.
In his last start, Rapp took a shutout into the seventh inning in Kansas City before being charged with three runs. He didn't get the decision in the Orioles' 7-6 loss. He'll be opposed tonight by Steve Trachsel, with last night's scheduled Devil Rays starter, Dave Eiland, missing his turn.
The Orioles just returned from a six-game trip through Kansas City and Minnesota, when they went 2-4. After finishing up with the Devil Rays, they'll play three games in Oakland and four in Chicago.
Timlin, Myers activated
The Orioles' roster reclaimed the look manager Mike Hargrove had envisioned late in spring training when closer Mike Timlin and backup catcher Greg Myers were activated yesterday.
Timlin hasn't pitched since an April 1 exhibition game in Chattanooga, Tenn., the same day Myers took his last swing. Timlin went on the disabled list with a torn abdominal muscle, while Myers was sidelined with a badly strained left hamstring.
To make room for both players, the Orioles optioned reliever Gabe Molina to Triple-A Rochester and placed catcher Willie Morales on the 15-day disabled list with a hyperextended left elbow.
Molina appeared in only one game, giving up a three-run homer in the ninth inning of a 14-10 win over the Detroit Tigers on April 7. He remained idle while Hargrove kept searching for bullpen combinations that would protect late-inning leads in Kansas City and Minnesota -- usually with no success.
Morales was 2-for-8 with a run scored in two starts, the most recent coming on Sunday. His first major-league game, against Detroit on April 9, produced his first hit. It came on his first at-bat, against C. J. Nitkowski, on the first pitch thrown to him. The last Oriole to collect a hit in his initial major-league at-bat was Ryan Minor on Sept. 13, 1998, against Anaheim.
Morales, who went 0-for-4 on Sunday but caught Ponson's first major-league shutout, apparently had been experiencing discomfort in the elbow. It worsened on Sunday, and he was placed on the disabled list after having it examined yesterday.
With Timlin in the fold, right-hander Mike Trombley eventually can return to a setup role after getting his first save as an Oriole on Saturday. He failed to protect a lead in Kansas City on Wednesday when Rey Sanchez hit a three-run homer in the ninth.
Hargrove said he wanted to ease Timlin into the ninth-inning waters. He's hoping to use Timlin for one or two batters without the outcome hanging in the balance before plopping him into save situations.
"We'll just play that by ear, use him as we see fit," Hargrove said.
Once Timlin reaches that point, he'll mostly be a one-inning pitcher. Hargrove indicated there only would be rare instances when Timlin comes into a game in the eighth inning.
"The plan is 99.99 percent of the time he's going to be a three-out closer," Hargrove said.
Myers initially had feared that his injury would take longer to heal. It occurred when he left the batter's box after connecting on a 420-foot home run in the Chattanooga exhibition.
"I didn't think it would be this quick," he said.
Erickson stretches out
The rain forced Scott Erickson indoors for yesterday's five-inning simulated game, the longest he's thrown since having arthroscopic surgery on March 3 to remove bone chips from his right elbow. He twice had gone four innings.
Pitching coach Sammy Ellis had wanted Erickson to face some hitters on the main field, but the weather prevented him from fully duplicating game-like conditions. Instead, the session was held in the tunnel.
"It went fine," Ellis said. "We had some other plans but there was nothing we could do. He just needs to keep throwing, and hopefully somewhere along the line face some batters. That's the key. He has to face some batters."
Erickson is drawing closer to a minor-league rehab assignment, though the club still hasn't chosen a date. He remains well ahead of the initial projection that he wouldn't return to the Orioles until early May.
DeShields ready to return
Second baseman Delino DeShields was set to return to the lineup last night before the rainout. He had left the club on Saturday to join his mother in Delaware following a death in their family.
Jesus Garcia started in DeShields' absence and went 0-for-8 in two games. He had nine assists on Sunday, three short of the major-league record for second basemen.
Bill Stetka, Orioles director of public relations, is trying to find whether the nine assists are a club record.
"I didn't keep count," Garcia said, "but I knew I had quite a few hit to me."
With DeShields back, shortstop Mike Bordick will return to hitting ninth in the order. He had gone 3-for-9 with an RBI and two runs scored while batting second.
Bordick has hit safely in the Orioles' first 12 games to leave his average at .383 with four homers and a club-leading 17 RBIs. Only catcher Charles Johnson has more homers, belting his fifth on Saturday to move ahead of Bordick.