SEATTLE -- Right-hander Jeff Robinson probably will return to the Baltimore Orioles starting rotation next week, but the uncertainty has become a source of aggravation.
"I don't know what's going to happen," he said. "I don't know if I'm going to start or pitch in relief. But I know one thing. I'm not going back and forth. I'm not going to play that game. It has to be one or the other. They are going to have to make a decision."
Robinson is a reliever for the time being. He made four starts -- two good, two bad -- before moving into the bullpen after getting just one out in a May 4 start against the California Angels.
He was removed from the rotation to allow left-hander Mike Flanagan to make a spot start against the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday, but was left with the impression that he would be returning soon.
"I had no problem with that," Robinson said. "Mike has been pitching great. I don't have hard feelings about anything, but we've either got to go one way or the other. I can't effectively help this ballclub bouncing back and forth like this."
Pitching coach Al Jackson said yesterday that a decision is near on a starter for Tuesday night's game against the A's at Memorial Stadium, but the uneven schedule has made it difficult to keep everyone satisfied.
"I know it's tough for him," Jackson said. "I think everybody would like to be on a regular schedule. It's been explained to everyone. I just asked him to hang with us until we can get it squared away. When we go home, we'll have six games in six days, and that will give us a chance to iron things out. It's hard when there is an off day every three or four days. I understand what he is saying."
Robinson has not been the least effective of the Orioles starters, even though his 1-3 record and 6.50 ERA are far from impressive. But he had turned in back-to-back solid performances (two earned runs in 13 2/3 innings) before the blowup against the Angels.
"I thought I was starting to show them what I could do," Robinson said. "I gave up two runs in 13 innings and they moved me back two days so that Ben [McDonald] could make his regular turn. I'm a guy who has to pitch every fourth or fifth day to be effective."
The past couple of weeks have been difficult for everyone in the Orioles clubhouse. The team has lost 11 of its last 17 games to drop into sixth place. The starting rotation has not distinguished itself.
Of the club's seven qualified starters, only Jose Mesa has pitched with any consistency. Robinson feels he will do the same when he gets on a regular schedule.
"This is the first year [since 1988] that I feel completely healthy," he said. "Pitching on a regular basis, I think I can do some positive things."
He has proved he can win at the major-league level, though his best season predates a series of arm injuries that kept him from being very effective the past two years.
Robinson was 13-6 with a 2.98 ERA for the Detroit Tigers in 1988, but a tender elbow and a rib-cage injury held him to 16 starts in 1989. Last year, he was 10-9 through Aug. 31, but missed the final month of the year with a stress fracture in his forearm.
The Orioles intended him to be a regular member of the starting rotation when they traded catcher Mickey Tettleton for him in January. That still appears likely, but Robinson wants to know for sure whether he will be a full-time starter or a middle reliever.
"I'll do either one," he said, "but I want to do one or the other. You approach the game differently in those two different roles. I just know I can't continue having things be this way. I can't handle not knowing."