Matthews to heal on bench


TORONTO - With four games remaining, Orioles manager Mike Hargrove decided to be safe rather than sorry with outfielder Gary Matthews, deciding he won't start again this season.

Matthews hasn't been in the starting lineup since Aug. 23 because of a severe case of tendinitis in his right wrist. The Orioles activated him from the disabled list on Sept. 11, but he has been limited to a pinch-running and a late-inning defensive role.

"I don't anticipate using him at all," Hargrove said. "He's swinging the bat well in batting practice; that's the part that makes you think you could get away with it. But if he ends up hurting it worse, surgery is a very real possibility. The benefit just doesn't outweigh the risk."

For now, Hargrove says he thinks Matthews will be able to avoid surgery and let the injury heal with rest over the offseason.

Matthews will likely finish with a .276 average, seven home runs, 38 RBIs, 15 stolen bases and 25 doubles. His on-base percentage plus slugging percentage is .782, which ranked second on the team last night behind Jay Gibbons, who was at .786.

And while the Orioles have missed David Segui's bat for most of the season, the Matthews injury has been a real setback. Entering last night, they were 4-28 since he got hurt. In 23 of those 32 games, they had scored three runs or fewer.

"You take one of your better hitters out of your lineup - I'm not one to look for crutches - but the numbers speak for themselves," Hargrove said.

Hairston injured

Orioles second baseman Jerry Hairston left last night's game in the fifth inning with a pulled groin. He injured himself while stealing second base in the first inning but stayed in the game and scored the game's first run with a nifty hook slide around Blue Jays catcher Tom Wilson.

Hargrove said he will know more about the severity of the injury today.

Hentgen's return

Pat Hentgen will make his final start of the season tonight, and it promises to be special because it comes against Toronto. Hentgen started his career in that organization, helping the Blue Jays win two World Series. In 1996, he won the American League Cy Young Award.

The Blue Jays traded him to St. Louis after the 1999 season, and this will be the first time he has faced his former team.

"I just feel real fortunate to get the opportunity to play with a team like that," said Hentgen, who is 0-3 with a 7.88 ERA in three starts since coming back from reconstructive elbow surgery.

Ripken's moment still leads

Former Oriole Cal Ripken's 2,131st consecutive game played still ranks as major-league baseball's most memorable moment, in the latest poll results, with about 6,000 more votes than Hank Aaron's record-setting 715th home run. Voting continues through Sunday, and the top 10 will be announced before Game 4 of the World Series on Oct. 23.

Evaluation time

Orioles vice president for baseball operations Syd Thrift will hold a meeting in his office Saturday morning with Hargrove, the coaching staff and the organization's top scouts. The group will examine every player on the roster and make recommendations for the offseason. This is a common practice for teams at season's end.

Around the horn

The starting rotation for this weekend's series against the Yankees will be Sidney Ponson, Travis Driskill and John Stephens. Driskill is replacing Jason Johnson, who has a broken right ring finger. The Yankees will counter with David Wells, Orlando Hernandez and Mike Mussina.

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