A lineup that seems to take on a different look with every game underwent another transformation yesterday when Orioles manager Mike Hargrove batted shortstop Melvin Mora fifth behind Cal Ripken, who continues to hit cleanup and has become a more regular presence in the field.
Mora has batted second in 38 games this season since being acquired from the New York Mets, along with three other players, on July 29 for shortstop Mike Bordick. He also hit third once, but never lower. Jerry Hairston moved up to second last night.
"I'm just trying to get him into an RBI position," said Hargrove, who also was influenced by the Seattle Mariners starting a left-hander, former Oriole Jamie Moyer.
"Melvin is one of our better hitters, and with Jerry in the lineup and a left-hander going, we're just trying to give Cal some protection."
He's also trying to get Mora out of a slump. Since returning from a strained left hamstring, Mora had gone 3-for-26 in six games before going 2-for-4 last night.
Ripken has started three consecutive games at third base, with the benefit of Thursday's open date. Ripken had been eased back into his position by serving as the designated hitter in his first four games after coming off the disabled list and not immediately making consecutive starts.
Hargrove didn't bother checking with Ripken before writing in his name, figuring Ripken would speak up if he desired a rest. He said the club is "slowly but surely" getting to the point where it again becomes a natural assumption that Ripken will be in the lineup.
"We'd still probably shy away from playing him in a day game after a night game or the second game of a doubleheader, but I think he's responding well to his playing time," Hargrove said.
Ryan Minor received his second start at first base. He was inserted there after striking out as a pinch-hitter Friday and made a diving stop along the line to rob Alex Rodriguez.
"He also made two good picks on low throws in Texas," Hargrove said. "He looks comfortable there. Ryan's an athlete, and he's done well over there. We're just looking at him."
After going 0-for-4 last night, Minor is now hitless in his past 25 at-bats as part of a 1-for-35 slump.
Rivera might face A's
Luis Rivera, acquired from the Atlanta Braves in the B.J. Surhoff deal before the waiver deadline, remains a possibility to start one of the games in Tuesday's doubleheader against the Oakland Athletics. He hasn't pitched since being called up by the Orioles on Sept. 5.
"We'll just play it by ear," Hargrove said on Friday. "I don't think there's a burning desire or a great need for him to pitch here. We know what we've got."
Rivera went 0-1 with a 3.38 ERA in three starts with the Red Wings. He was limited to eight innings after being shut down because of tendinitis in his right shoulder. He threw in the bullpen yesterday, and, upon taking the mound, would become the 50th player used by the Orioles. The record is 55 in 1954.
Pat Rapp will start tomorrow's opener of the four-game series. Rookie Jay Spurgeon will pitch Tuesday, with Jose Mercedes closing it out the next night.
Rookie John Parrish also is a possibility for Tuesday. He hasn't pitched since last Tuesday, when he allowed five runs in 1 2/3 innings in Game 1 of a doubleheader against the Rangers in Texas.
Parrish has thrown 36 1/3 innings with the Orioles after accumulating 120 in the minors, but Hargrove repeated he doesn't believe the left-hander is fatigued.
"I think his mechanics are out of kilter. That's our biggest concern right now," Hargrove said.
Maduro still recovering
Calvin Maduro, who began the season as the team's fourth starter, continues to throw in the bullpen every three days as he recovers from a strained ligament in his right elbow. The sessions usually last about 15 minutes and now include curveballs, though none of his pitches is delivered with maximum effort.
"My arm feels good enough to let it go, but I'm not doing it yet," said Maduro, who is on the 60-day disabled list.
"It's not like I'm back to 100 percent, but I'm trying to get there. I've just got to build up my arm strength because I had been resting it."
Around the horn
Leslie Brea's fastball reached 96 mph during his two-inning relief stint Friday. Brea was making his second appearance with the Orioles since being acquired from the Mets in the Bordick trade. "I liked what I saw," Hargrove said. ... The Orioles will not renew the contracts of rookie-league Bluefield manager Duffy Dyer and pitching coach Bob Lacey. Dyer completed his second season with the Orioles' Appalachian League affiliate. Lacey finished his first season on the staff. ... The Orioles had turned 47 double plays in 47 games before last night since beginning a series of trades on July 28. They had turned 71 in the previous 100 games.