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Cleaning up in fourth spot


When assessing where Ramon Hernandez would hit in the Orioles' lineup all the way back in spring training, Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo said that he could foresee the catcher batting anywhere from second, to fifth through nine. He never mentioned the cleanup spot.

However, Hernandez has thrived in the No. 4 spot since Jay Gibbons went on the disabled list. In four games in the cleanup hole entering last night, Hernandez was 9-for-16 with one homer, four doubles and six RBIs. Hernandez added to those numbers and extended his team-leading RBI total to 46 with a single in the first last night.

"He's swinging the bat right now and he has a lot of confidence," Perlozzo said. "Even his outs are hard. I can't exactly tell you that he is a cleanup hitter, but he can hit in a lot of places in the lineup for you, depending on how he is going. He's been pretty clutch for us."

Perlozzo said that he'd at least consider keeping Hernandez in the spot behind Miguel Tejada when Gibbons returns from the disabled list.

Hernandez said he is indifferent. "It doesn't matter where I am at," said the catcher. "I just try to do my job, whatever it takes to make the team win ballgames. Every time I get a pitch to hit, I just try to hit it."

Tough task for rookie

Orioles rookie left-hander Adam Loewen considered his first two starting assignments - Saturday opposite the Yankees' Randy Johnson and tomorrow against Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay - and smiled. The two pitchers have 356 wins and six Cy Young awards between them.

"It's not really humorous, but I think going against the best guys is really a test for me and the home team," said Loewen, a British Columbia native who gave up three earned runs in five innings in his first major league start. "Hopefully, I can go out there and give it a good game. It's exciting to go against Roy Halladay and a team that I've watched all my life."

Loewen said he has not been told how long he'll remain in the rotation. He considers that a good thing. "Each time, I have a little bit of pressure to do well," Loewen said. "That helps to keep you focused on the task at hand."

Non-rough pitch for Wie

A day after competing in a U.S. Open qualifier, golfer Michelle Wie was entrusted with another nerve-racking task last night. In the area to compete in this week's LPGA Championship at Bulle Rock in Havre de Grace, Wie threw out the first pitch last night.

"This park is amazing," said Wie, 16, wearing an Orioles jersey. "It is so beautiful. There is a lot of history here."

Wie, who threw a floater to Orioles bullpen coach Rick Dempsey, said that she practiced a little back in Hawaii with a friend, who plays baseball. "He gave up after a while," she said. "He said I was hopeless."

Around the horn

Hayden Penn, who had an appendectomy on May 22, reported to the Orioles' minor league complex in Sarasota, Fla. ... Chris Gomez (broken hand) said he has started to swing a bat and could be ready in about two weeks ... Before Brian Roberts was thrown out stealing on Monday, the Orioles had been perfect on 21 steals. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last team to have streaks of 20 or more was St. Louis in 1985 (27 and 33). The last American League team to do it was Kansas City in 1980.

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