No longer willing to play short-handed, the Orioles put Ryan Minor on the disabled list yesterday and brought up infielder Ivanon Coffie from Double-A Bowie.
Minor hasn't been available since being scratched from the lineup before a July 1 game at Camden Yards, when he pulled a rib cage muscle while hitting in the indoor cage. Major League Baseball rules allow the Orioles to backdate the move 10 days, but it will be at least another week before he's ready to play.
Syd Thrift, the Orioles' vice president of baseball operations, said Minor would go on a rehab assignment before rejoining the club. And there are no assurances that he will be ready for that once five days pass.
"This is the first time I've ever been out for an extended period," said Minor, who is batting .238 with one RBI in nine games. "It's frustrating, but these things happen."
Coffie, 23, was batting .267 with 21 doubles, three triples, nine homers and 44 RBIs. He participated in the Double-A All-Star Game last week, and was in New Haven on Friday when Baysox manager Andy Etchebarren passed along the news of his promotion around 2:30 p.m.
"He said, 'You're going to Baltimore.' And I said, 'You've got to be kidding me.' I wasn't expecting it at all," said Coffie, who joins Atlanta's Andruw Jones as the only current major-league players from Curacao, and the fifth overall.
Because he's on the 40-man roster, the Orioles won't have to make a corresponding move for Coffie, who mostly had played shortstop this season but moved back to third base about two weeks ago. Thrift said the change in positions was made with the Orioles in mind, not Triple-A Rochester. Cal Ripken remains on the disabled list with nerve irritation in his lower back, and Minor remains a spectator.
"Minor hasn't been able to play at all, and it's not fair to the team not to have 25 players. Ivanon was the only logical person to come here and play third base," Thrift said.
"He's a left-handed hitter, he's always had a great swing, he's always had a chance to be a very good hitter. It's a good thing for him to have an opportunity to be in the major leagues now to help his development and growth as a future major-leaguer. That's a plus. He's got the right makeup and the right disposition. He should hit 15 to 20 home runs in the major leagues in the future."
Manager Mike Hargrove said he will use Coffie as long as he's here, and not just as a pinch runner or late-inning replacement. Coffie did make his first appearance yesterday as a pinch runner, though, replacing Harold Baines in the ninth inning."[Jeff] Conine will get the bulk of the playing time, but Coffie didn't come here to sit. He'll play some, and we'll see how it goes. Put him out there and if he can hold his own and play the way that we think he can play, then he'll get more time," Hargrove said.
Coffie was signed as a non-drafted free agent in July 1995. He batted .283 with 11 homers and 53 RBIs in 73 games at Single-A Frederick last season, and also played in 57 games at Bowie.
Knowing his place
The signing of veteran third baseman Dave Hollins to a minor-league contract last week apparently won't impact the Orioles.
Thrift said the transaction was based on Rochester's need for a third baseman after Minor left. He dismissed the possibility of Hollins playing for the Orioles.
"I haven't walked on water lately, but it would be a miracle if he got here," Thrift said. "There was no desire for him to be here. The desire was to give him a job at Rochester and see if he could help that club. He understood that; we understood that."
Conine went into yesterday's game with only two hits in his past 36 at-bats, an .056 stretch that had lowered his average to .273. A second-inning single yesterday broke an 0-for-20 slump, and he wound up 1-for-3.
Conine said the problem isn't in his swing. It's mostly in his head.
"Obviously, I don't feel real comfortable up there right now," he said. "When that happens, they seem to be making better pitches than they normally do. And then, when I do get a pitch to hit, I'm not hitting it. I'm just really out of rhythm right now. I had three or four pitches [Friday] night that, two weeks ago, I would have driven. And when you get into a funk like this, your mind starts going awry and you start jumping at pitches you should really kill.
"At this stage of the game, it's a mental thing. You try to clear your mind as much as possible and let what should happen just come naturally to you. But no matter how long you've been doing this, you start thinking and try to change things and it just gets you further into a hole."
Resurfacing in Atlanta
Kamieniecki joined the Braves after being designated for assignment by the Cleveland Indians, who had signed him to a two-year contract with an option. He wasn't used much in spring training and accumulated 33 innings before being let go.
This was disappointing for Kamieniecki, who enjoyed being near his Michigan home.
"They said from Day One I never fit in. I was like, 'Well, why did you sign me?' " he said.
"I just don't think they liked me from the beginning. All I wanted to do was pitch. I wanted to be there or I wouldn't have signed there. But they told me two or three guys had passed me up. I didn't know what that meant. I said, 'Are we in competition with each other? I thought we were here to compete against the other club.'
"But it worked out for me. If they hadn't done that, I wouldn't have this opportunity."
Around the horn
Atlanta second baseman Quilvio Veras has been lost for the season with a torn ligament and cartilage in his right knee. The injury was suffered during a rundown in the first inning of Friday's game. ... Today is the last day that Orioles wives will collect non-perishable food items at the gates before the game. All proceeds benefit the Maryland Food Bank.