DETROIT -- Relief pitcher Kevin Hickey was high-fiving in the visiting clubhouse at Tiger Stadium yesterday, but it was only partly because he had beaten the odds and made it back to the big leagues.
"I missed a 12-hour bus ride," Hickey said. "We were busing from London [Ontario] to Hagerstown tonight."
Instead, general manager Roland Hemond called yesterday afternoon and told Hickey to pack up for a two-hour ride from London to Detroit to join the major-league club. The club optioned utilityman Jeff McKnight back to the Rochester Red Wings roster to make room.
Hickey entered last night's game in the first inning and pitched 2 1/3 innings, allowing one run on two hits.
Hickey, who appeared to be on his way out of baseball when he was released by the Orioles during the final week of spring training, was thrilled to be back.
"I'm like toxic waste," he said. "You can't get rid of me. I always seem to surface somewhere."
Because he was released by club in spring training, the earliest he could have returned to the Orioles major-league roster was May 15. His chances had improved dramatically when left-hander Joe Price asked out of his minor-league contract in April.
It was the second roster move by the Orioles in two days. First baseman David Segui was recalled from Rochester on Sunday when right-hander Dave Johnson went on the 15-day disabled list with a groin strain.
Manager Frank Robinson hinted Sunday that Hickey would be back. The Orioles had just used left-hander Paul Kilgus for 5 1/3 innings and right-hander Mark Williamson has been hobbled by a slight groin strain.
"He [Hickey] is throwing the ball well, and we know him," Robinson said. "We asked the minor-league people what they thought and they said Hickey. When he went down, I felt like he would be back. You figure you're going to need some help somewhere down the road."
Hickey threw three innings for the Hagerstown Suns on Sunday, but said he was available for last night's game. He had pitched 20 innings at the Class AA level.
The move with McKnight was not announced until after Hickey had arrived at the ballpark, so there was some suspense in the Orioles clubhouse.
"For once," Hickey said, "it was nice coming to the ballpark and knowing it's not me."
McKnight expressed mild surprise at the move. He batted .241 (7-for-29) with two RBI and played well in the field after the club recalled him May 6, but he was expendable.
"Things happen," he said. "Naturally, this is where everybody wants to play, but sometimes it doesn't work out. They needed a pitcher, and I don't pitch."
Robinson praised the contribution McKnight made, but defended the decision to send him back to the Class AAA level.
"We had to move somebody off to move somebody on," Robinson said. "It had nothing to do with the way he played. He's just a guy we felt we could move.
"He performed well. I liked what I saw and I think he'll be back -- if not with this club, then with some other club. He can play a role with a major-league club."