Jeff Robinson becomes the fifth pitcher to start for the Orioles in the last five games when he faces Oakland tonight (7:35, HTS), but don't let that mislead you. A five-man rotation is not yet back in place.
"He's only the fourth one," said pitching coach Al Jackson. "Eventually we'll have to go back to a fifth starter [possibly Saturday night against California], but right now we're only up to four."
Obviously Mike Flanagan, who started last Wednesday in Oakland, does not count as part of the rotation, an indication that his appearance was merely an attempt by the Orioles to find a spark. The veteran lefthander is not expected to escape the bullpen except in an emergency.
Robinson fits in behind Jeff Ballard, Jose Mesa and Ben McDonald on the basis of a strong relief effort Friday night in Seattle -- and a good track record against the two-time defending world champion A's. "One of the reasons we started Flanny against them was because he was 11-1 in that park," said Jackson. "Jeff has a 5-1 record against them, and you like to have someone with pop go against their club."
The irony is that Robinson was considered one of the three possibilities to face Oakland last week, along with Bob Milacki and Dave Johnson, but the assignment went instead to Flanagan.
Robinson (1-3, 5.16) will be opposed by Joe Slusarski (1-0, 2.08), as the Orioles open a six-game homestand that includes a weekend series against California.
Ballard (2-4, 4.43) and Mesa (4-3, 2.83) will pitch the final two games of the series. Bob Welch (3-2, 3.35) and Kirk Dressendorfer (3-2, 4.85) are scheduled to follow Slusarski to the mound for the A's.