There was no master plan behind the changes in the Orioles' lineup last night, but they weren't by accident either.
"I'm searching," admitted manager Frank Robinson, who had Leo Gomez at third base, Chris Hoiles catching and Juan Bell at second base in the Orioles' 6-3 loss to Seattle. "I'm looking for a spark."
The problem, with a 6-12 record, is that if the spark doesn't show up immediately there's no time to wait. The Gomez-Craig Worthington duel at third base still simmers because nobody has taken control.
Both came into the season off impressive exhibition performances with experience and superior defense the deciding factor for Worthington. "It's a situation where both would benefit by playing for a period of time," said Robinson. "But the way we're going right now I don't think we can afford it."
In other words, somebody has to get hot or the two will share the position -- and maybe risk losing it to Tim Hulett.
The same seems to be true with the catchers. Robinson's plan coming into the season was to split the job between Hoiles and Bob Melvin, with Ernie Whitt getting an occasional start. Hoiles, who also had a fine spring, hasn't been able to get untracked at the plate, hitting .147.
"I'd like to give him some at-bats to get himself straightened out," Robinson said of Hoiles. "But at this time I can't be that sympathetic."
Bell was in the lineup last night primarily because Robinson feels he has to use the rookie infielder against righthanders if he's going to get him sufficient playing time. Bill Ripken, the regular second baseman, is hitting only .190, so the move was easy to make last night against tough righthander Erik Hanson. Robinson and Ripken, incidentally, spent some time before the game looking at old tapes.
"When you start making these little changes, you're trying to catch lightning in a bottle," said Robinson. "The pity is, when I get these brilliant ideas, it always seems to be the day before a lefthander is going to pitch [Randy Johnson goes for Seattle tonight]. All of a sudden I have to make a lineup change the next day.
"Maybe I'm not so smart after all," said Robinson, a dangerous self- evaluation right now since he's got a lot of people agreeing with him as the Orioles flounder.
* IT HAPPENS EVERY SPRING: It should come as no surprise that the Orioles have an organizational meeting scheduled this afternoon. They have about three or four of these gatherings every year, depending on how things are going, but they always take on added significance when the team is struggling.
"I'm sure they [the front office] want to hear our opinion about the team," said Robinson. "They see what's happening on the field, but they might not know what our thinking is in the clubhouse."
* THERE'S NO CONNECTION HERE: The Orioles finished the month 6-12 -- matching their fourth worst April in club history. You shouldn't have to be told that 1988 (1-22) was the worst, followed by 1955 (4-12), 1956 (4-9) and, surprise, 1982 (6-12).
* THIS 'N THAT: Edgar Martinez extended his major-league high hitting streak to 15 games . . . The Orioles have lost four out of five on this home stand and 9 of 12 overall . . . Seattle has beaten the Orioles 12 of the last 15.