First baseman Randy Milligan looks like a long shot to return to the Baltimore Orioles lineup, but he refuses to concede the final two weeks of the season.
"It might not be important to anyone else at this point," he said, "but it's important to me. It's really important that I come back this year."
Milligan's slow recovery from a badly bruised -- perhaps separated -- shoulder has been a source of great frustration for himself, the coaches and the club's medical staff. The day he slammed into Oakland Athletics catcher Ron Hassey (Aug. 7), it generally was assumed that he would be out no more than a week. He said three or four days. Now it has been six weeks, and he still experiences soreness when he swings a bat.
"The frustrating thing is not being able to do something I love to do," Milligan said. "I've pushed it hard the last week, and I don't feel like I'm helping myself."
The plan now is to take a couple of days off and resume batting practice. The best Milligan can hope for is a few starts at the end of the season, but even that would be enough.
"Even one game would be important," he said. "It wouldn't be good to come back next spring with doubts."
His return is not so important to the club, which figures to spend the next couple of weeks looking at rookie David Segui.
"I'm sure I miss them more than they miss me," Milligan said.
That might be true now, but the club definitely has missed him. His 20 home runs still lead the club, which has a 13-27 record since the injury.
Milligan said it would be good just to come back at the end of the season and have something to do with the outcome of the American League East race, even if the Orioles already have been reduced to a spoiler's role.
Milligan would settle for one big swing against the Toronto Blue Jays during the final series of the regular season. He said he would love to have a hand in knocking them off.
"I want to make sure they feel the way we felt last year," he said.
* Boston Red Sox pitcher Roger Clemens tested his sore shoulder yesterday at Memorial Stadium and apparently will start against the New York Yankees on Sunday. But he'll return to Boston for another examination first.
The Red Sox moved him into Sunday's start so, if all goes well, he'd be set to come back to pitch against the Blue Jays the following weekend. The altered rotation also would make him available to pitch the final game of the regular season (against the Chicago White Sox) if it has a bearing on the race.
* Rookie third baseman Leo Gomez batted in the third spot last night, moving up in the lineup after his two-hit performance in the opener of the series.
Craig Worthington was in the lineup as the designated hitter. Robinson could have gone with the more experienced glove man at third, but wants to see as much of Gomez at third base as he can.
* U.S. Supreme Court nominee David Souter and baseball commissioner Fay Vincent were among the dignitaries joining Orioles owner Eli Jacobs in the owner's box last night.
* The Red Sox lost a chance last night to even their all-time record at Memorial Stadium at 155-155. No team has been at .500 here since the Cleveland Indians entered the 1973 season with an 87-87 record. The Sox have dominated the Orioles both at home and on the road this season and have won the season series between the clubs in each of the past seven years.