Each day seems to bring more intrigue concerning the Orioles' rotation, which is undergoing changes as the season's final month is played out. Two starters have been removed. Another starter's status has become uncertain. And an organization is reluctant to share much information.
Scott Erickson and Travis Driskill have gone to the bullpen. Sidney Ponson took Driskill's spot after coming off the disabled list, starting last night against the Texas Rangers. And manager Mike Hargrove confirmed yesterday that Sean Douglass will take Erickson's turn tomorrow against the Anaheim Angels, with Rodrigo Lopez going the following night.
So what about Sunday, when John Stephens' turn comes up? "It's undecided," Hargrove said.
If Stephens is bypassed, the Orioles could give Pat Hentgen his first start since having elbow ligament-transplant surgery in August 2001.
Driskill has taken his role change in stride, pointing to his second-half struggles as adequate reason for the switch. Driskill won his first five decisions, but is 2-6 with a 5.80 ERA since the All-Star break.
"Sid's healthy, so obviously he's starting, and they want to look at some guys, too," he said.
"My numbers speak for themselves. Since the All-Star break, I haven't been very good. I look at this not as a demotion or anything, it's just another opportunity to succeed in the bullpen."
Successes became rare for him as a starter once he lost command of his fastball. "Then it snowballed and I probably got in my own head a little bit, giving the hitters a little too much credit. And I could never get back on track," he said.
"Right now, I would love to start, but that's not in the picture. All the guys who are coming up that they want to look at, who they drafted and raised in their farm system, those guys deserve an opportunity. I was just filling in, and hopefully there's a spot for me in the future."
No matter what the last few weeks bring, Driskill will find great joy in his rookie season - one that didn't arrive until after his 30th birthday.
"It's disappointing to get off to such a good start and then have it finish that way, but when the season's over and I can look back, all I have to do is think about the 9 1/2 years prior," he said. "I got to spend almost a full year in the big leagues, and that's quite an accomplishment in itself."
Matthews bored, cautious
Outfielder Gary Matthews hit off a tee yesterday but couldn't project whether he would be ready to come off the disabled list when eligible Sunday.
He might wait until Tuesday's series opener in New York.
"We're going to give it a little bit more time," said Matthews, who's recovering from tendinitis in his right wrist. "I was thinking that I'd like to be ready for that series in New York. It all depends on how I feel and how strong it is."
Matthews has tired of being in the dugout.
"It's the most boring thing you can do, watching for 3 1/2 hours and knowing you have no chance of having an impact whatsoever. You just sit there and you watch," he said. "Now I know what the coaches feel like."
White House trip
It helps having friends in high places. It's even better when he's your former boss.
Yesterday, President Bush entertained a special interest group - some Texas Rangers - in the Oval Office. The former baseball owner and current leader of the Free World spent about a half hour with Alex Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro, Kenny Rogers, Ivan Rodriguez, Kevin Mench and Michael Young.
Rangers owner Tom Hicks was also present, and Hicks and the president apparently did not get into any philosophical discussions about whether Bush would have signed Alex Rodriguez to that record $252 million contract.
"It didn't come up," Rodriguez said.
"But we stood in his office and it was one of the happiest days in my life, one of the most prestigious days in my life. To have access to the Oval Office like that, all the artwork. They took a picture of us and I'm going to hang it in my office, right next to Bill Gates."
Like father, like son
Jerry Hairston had something in common with his father after breaking up Tuesday's no-hit bid.
Jerry Hairston Sr. broke up an attempt for a perfect game with two outs in the ninth inning while playing for the Chicago White Sox in a game on April 15, 1983.
The Detroit Tigers' Milt Wilcox had retired the first 26 batters before Hairston Sr., hitting for Jerry Dybzinski, lined a single into center field.
Wilcox finished with a one-hitter.
Sun staff writer Laura Vecsey contributed to this article.