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O's are fighting off injury bug


DETROIT -- The Orioles began yesterday's game with two healthy players on their bench and a lineup they never envisioned back in March.

Napoleon Calzado in left field. Ramon Nivar in center. Chris Gomez at second base. Sal Fasano behind the plate.

Too bad Hayden Penn wasn't pitching. That won't happen until tomorrow night in Pittsburgh.

Second baseman Brian Roberts was available to pinch run in an emergency. The club still isn't sure whether he'll play tonight against the Pirates.

"It's going to be a tough call," Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli said. "He's got to really convince me that he can go."

Catcher Geronimo Gil arrived at Comerica Park yesterday with his left thumb wrapped. He was hit by foul tips in the same spot twice during Saturday's game, in the fourth and fifth innings, before coming out. X-rays were negative.

"It feels all right," Gil said. "It's a little bit sore, but I'm OK."

Gil wears a protective device on the thumb and it's the same one he keeps tucked in a mitt, but it was bent back by foul tips from Brandon Inge and Tony Giarratano.

"I'm going to be OK," Gil said.

The Orioles sure hope so. Fasano is the only healthy catcher on the roster. David Newhan most likely would be chosen in an emergency, since the team doesn't want to risk injury to 40-year-old B.J. Surhoff, who had reconstructive surgery on his right knee in 2002.

Surhoff hasn't caught since 1995.

"At this point, I don't think we're going to get B.J. back there," first base coach Rick Dempsey said. "Chief [Gil] is hurt, but Chief is a tough son of a gun. If we have to use him for some reason, I'm sure he'll be able to do it. And I know Newhan could probably strap it on if he had to. He's done that before. I wouldn't even worry about it."

Day off for Surhoff

Surhoff wasn't in the starting lineup despite being the team's hottest hitter.

Mazzilli wanted to rest him, and yesterday seemed like the appropriate time with the Detroit Tigers starting left-hander Mike Maroth. Calzado made his first major league start in Surhoff's place.

Surhoff is batting .432 with three doubles, two triples and six RBIs during a nine-game hitting streak, and .368 in his past 25 games after beginning the season 2-for-22.

Even hot bats need to be still once in a while.

"Day game after a night game, and he's been going hard lately. You can't push him all the time," Mazzilli said. "I was looking to give [Rafael Palmeiro] a day off, too, but I don't have enough players to do it."

Reaction to Murray's firing

Dempsey expressed surprise and disappointment that ex-teammate Eddie Murray was fired as Cleveland Indians' hitting coach after Saturday's game.

The Indians had the fifth-best offense in baseball last year, but they rank at or near the bottom of every significant category. Murray was in his fourth season.

"It's obvious they were spoiled from last year because that ballclub did a great job. A lot of young players really made a name for themselves hitting last year," said Dempsey, who replaced Murray as the Orioles' first base coach in 2002.

"Something must have been wrong there because it just doesn't make sense. You don't take a Hall of Fame guy and fire him in the middle of the season, but I don't know any of the particulars. The GM there, Mark Shapiro, Eddie and I have known him since he was in diapers, just about. I know it was probably a really tough thing for Mark to do. So there really has to be more to it than we know. I'm sure it'll come out pretty soon.

"If worse comes to worst, you allow him to quit on his own."

Dempsey said he expects Murray to stay in coaching.

"Eddie's a baseball guy," Dempsey said. "He'll stay in the game. The guy just knows too much about it. Maybe it just didn't work out there. Cleveland wasn't his city anyway. Baltimore is."

Around the horn

Mazzilli said he didn't plan any changes in his rotation with Thursday's open date on the schedule, when the Orioles travel to Cincinnati. ... Sammy Sosa is 7-for-12 with five homers and eight walks lifetime against Pirates starter Dave Williams. ... The Tigers activated reliever Troy Percival from the disabled list, but he'll be used in non-save situations until manager Alan Trammell decides he's ready to close.

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