NEW YORK -- Jeff Ballard gained his first victory in four months Sunday. Now he gets a start, but it has nothing to do with a reward.
"They told me before my win that I'd probably get this game [tonight]," said Ballard, who is replacing Pete Harnisch in the rotation. "But it's really not that big a deal. It doesn't mean a lot."
Manager Frank Robinson said he chose Ballard because he usually pitches well in Yankee Stadium and against a club whose major power threats are left-handed hitters (Don Mattingly and Kevin Maas).
"And he deserves the chance," said Robinson.
Ballard, who has been in the bullpen since July 3 (exclusive of one start July 16 against the Texas Rangers), said he doesn't feel there is any reason he can't go nine innings.
"It's the end of the year. Why not? I'd rather have six or seven starts, but I only have one. Maybe if I start every game the rest of the season, I can finish .500 (he is 2-10)."
Ballard said he had to get re-oriented to keeping the pitching chart (a chore for the next day's starter) and said he called the bullpen to say goodbye: "I asked if they could make it without me, their fearless leader."
* Robinson said Bob Milacki will receive his first start since July 30 Saturday in Cleveland and that he will take someone from the bullpen for Sunday's start.
Then it will be Jose Mesa, Dave Johnson and Ben McDonald against the Toronto Blue Jays in the final series of the year, providing the games have a bearing on the American League East title chase.
"If they don't, Mesa and McDonald won't pitch again," said the manager. "We're not going to push them."
* Harnisch, who has tendinitis in his right shoulder, rejoined the team yesterday after being examined by Dr. Charles Silberstein in Baltimore.
"He'd go out there again right now if I let him," said Robinson, "but he was told before the exam he wouldn't pitch. I had my mind made up."
The development means no Orioles starter will go the entire season in the rotation.
* Catcher Chris Hoiles was re-examined yesterday by Silberstein, whose findings reconfirmed that Hoiles has either a torn muscle or a muscle hernia behind the right shoulder.
Hoiles has been advised to see Boston Red Sox team physician, Dr. Arthur Pappas, for a second opinion, but no appointment has been made.
He is expected to see Pappas in the next several days. Hoiles was injured throwing to second base Sunday as the Milwaukee Brewers' Paul Molitor attempted to steal.
* Robinson said his entire coaching staff is welcome to return if he is the Orioles field manager again next season.
"If I'm back, they'll be back . . . if they want to be," he said. Robinson said earlier he wants to return to the dugout to continue the team's building process.
* The Orioles are within earshot of last year's club record for errorless games. Five in the final eight games would tie the 93 total.
They have made a total of 174 errors the past two seasons, eight fewer than any other club.