Right-hander Ben McDonald will be eligible to come off the disabled list Sunday, but pitching coach Al Jackson indicated yesterday that the club will not rush its No. 1 starting pitcher back to the mound.
"I think he needs some game conditions before he comes back," Jackson said. "We're not going to throw him to the wolves."
McDonald pitched in the bullpen for 15 minutes during yesterday's morning workout and reported only minor stiffness in the elbow that forced him onto the 15-day disabled list. He will step up to 20 minutes the next time out but probably will pitch in a minor-league game or a simulated game situation before joining the major-league rotation.
"I would prefer a full-scale game, rather than a simulated one," Jackson said, "but that hasn't been decided yet. We'll play it by ear and see how things go."
Gomez might start at DH
Reserve third baseman Leo Gomez probably will be the designated hitter tonight when the Orioles close out their two-game series against the Chicago White Sox.
Manager Frank Robinson said yesterday that he will go with an all-right-handed lineup against left-hander Greg Hibbard. If Dwight Evans starts in right field, Gomez would make his 1991 debut as the DH.
Robinson said Monday that he was considering Gomez as a possible DH in an effort to get him some at-bats. Craig Worthington withstood a spring challenge at third base, so Gomez will have to get his plate appearances in some other role for the time being.
"He earned a place on this team," Robinson said. "He's part of this ballclub, so I want to get him some at-bats."
Gomez doesn't care where he plays. He just wants to get in there and take his cuts.
"The thing is getting a chance to play," he said. "I'm happy to just be here. Whatever they want me to do and whenever they want me to play is fine. I don't care if I play two or three days a week or every day. The main thing is I'm here, and I'm going to do the best I can."
Milacki works out a few kinks
Right-hander Bob Milacki worked in the bullpen with Jackson during yesterday's day-off workout, hoping to figure out what happened to his velocity.
"I think we found something," Jackson said. "We had looked at everything but the way he was driving off his back leg. He's 230 pounds, but he has only been putting about 175 of them behind his pitches. He was throwing well today."
Milacki is expected to make his first start of the season tomorrow in a home game for the Class AA Hagerstown Suns.
Jackson also worked on the side with right-hander J.J. Bautista, who did not retire a batter in his relief appearance Monday.
"He just got out of his mechanics," Jackson said. "He didn't have his usual pop on the ball, so we had to get out there and work on it."
Club confirms Hickey's return
The Orioles officially announced yesterday that left-hander Kevin Hickey has signed a minor-league contract and will report to the Suns.