Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo can't seem to get his rotation set for the final month of the season, no matter how hard he tries.
Just when Perlozzo had settled on his five starters, he lost Kris Benson to a bout with strep throat. Benson was scratched last night and replaced by Rodrigo Lopez, who had been told Friday that he was going to the bullpen. "He had a sore throat a little bit [Sunday], but nothing severe," Perlozzo said. "He woke up this morning and wasn't feeling very good, so he went to the doctor. We had to send him home because he's contagious."
Perlozzo could have started Daniel Cabrera on four days' rest, but decided on Lopez, whose 15 losses lead the majors. He pitched six strong innings last night without a decision.
Former starters Russ Ortiz and Bruce Chen pitched in relief Sunday. Left-hander Brian Burres, who made his major league debut over the weekend, received some consideration. "We thought we'd give Rodrigo a chance. If he wanted to take it, he could take it. And he was willing to pitch," Perlozzo said.
A decision looms over where to slot Benson into the rotation once the veteran is healthy. "We'll see how he feels, how long it takes," Perlozzo said.
Hawkins on hold
Reliever LaTroy Hawkins remains sidelined because of continuing discomfort related to a strained groin muscle.
Hawkins attempted to throw before Sunday's game but wasn't satisfied with the results.
"My hip felt better, but there's still a little spot that feels like a little tug," he said. "Rest is the only real treatment for it. Stretching doesn't feel good at all."
Hawkins was scheduled to be examined yesterday by a team physician. He wants to throw today, but he will check first with pitching coach Leo Mazzone. "I wouldn't say he's real close [to returning]," Perlozzo said.
Quick decision sought
If Perlozzo has his way, he'll be allowed to inform his coaches a few days after the season whether they're returning in 2007.
"I don't like to have people hanging," he said. "I like people knowing they're coming back right away ... assuming I am. I'm getting ahead of myself.
"We've still got work to do. ... We knew it wasn't going to happen in a year, but I really think we've done a lot of good things this year. We've solved some problems this year that we didn't know we could do with our people. Lately, we've been able to really localize where our needs are and get a good idea what kind of people you want to get."
Retired New York City firefighter Bill Spade received a standing ovation from the Camden Yards crowd before throwing out the ceremonial first pitch last night.
Spade arrived alone to the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, because other members of his unit, Rescue Company Five, had responded to a separate alarm. Spade was sent to evacuate the north tower, leading several groups of workers from the building, and stood outside with seven other occupants when the tower collapsed. He was the only survivor among the 12 firefighters on duty from his unit.
The Orioles also honored veterans of past wars, and the crowd observed a moment of silence.
Around the horn
Before last night, catcher Ramon Hernandez was batting .325 with 15 homers and 52 RBIs at home, and .201 with three homers and 28 RBIs on the road. "You know what we need to do? We'll put him in a white uniform [on the road]," Perlozzo said. ... Ravens running back Jamal Lewis visited the clubhouse and signed autographs. ... Former Orioles outfielder B.J. Surhoff also stopped by during batting practice. ... Alex Rodriguez returned to the Yankees' lineup after missing the previous two games because of an illness. email@example.com