With their offense scuffling along in low gear, the Baltimore Orioles tried an upward shift yesterday with the recall of third baseman Leo Gomez from the Class AAA Rochester Red Wings.
Gomez- who battled Craig Worthington for a starting job during spring training- hit two home runs in a 17-1 victory at Nashville on Tuesday night and has six homers and 16 RBI during the past 18 Red Wings games.
He was immediately inserted into last night's starting lineup by manager John Oates.
"It's a good time to make the move," said Oates. "Leo has been swinging the bat real well and we need someone like that."
Gomez was optioned to Rochester on May 6 after batting only .222 in 17 Orioles games and failing to drive in a run. He split time between third base and designated hitter.
He said he "understood the point" when he was sent down. "I didn't hit too well and sometimes I was swinging at bad pitches.
"I didn't want to stay here just watching games. If I was 40 years old, maybe I could have done that. The money wasn't as important as the playing."
Gomez started slowly at Rochester, going 5-for-34 (.147), but has hit .313 in the past 18 games.
"I just went there and did my job," he said. "I wasn't worried about coming back. But it's surprising that I'm starting already."
McKnight joins the disabled crowd
To make room for Gomez, the Orioles placed their sixth player on the disabled list, utility man Jeff McKnight.
McKnight suffered an injured left wrist Monday night at the Metrodome when he crashed into the wall chasing a double by Kent Hrbek of the Twins.
"It's a severe bruise, and it'll be five to seven days before he can even hold a bat," said Oates. "So we decided to put him on the 15-day list."
McKnight said he doesn't "have much strength in it right now" and is undergoing treatments to reduce swelling.
"I'll start doing some gripping as soon as I can."
McDonald coming along
Pitcher Ben McDonald is confident the results of a biomechanical study will show nothing is wrong with his right arm.
"It feels a lot better now than when I quit," he said. "I'm throwing off the mound and on the tape everything looks fine."
McDonald expects to learn in a few days what the study showed.
A no-decision decision
The Orioles have not yet decided what to do with Worthington, who is nearly ready to leave the disabled list.
"He's close, about 95 percent," said Oates. "But there is no place on the roster right now."
Oates said discussion has taken place about sending Worthington to a minor-league club to do some some hitting.
"He hasn't faced live pitching for 15 days, and the way we're hitting we can't afford to play someone like that," said the manager.
Davis hits off tee
Glenn Davis has begun hitting off a batting tee and, Oates said, "is doing very well. There is no pain."
If things continue as they are, Davis may begin to take live batting practice as early as next week.
Last but not least from the infirmary, Bill Ripken's back has not yet dictated that he, too, be disabled.
"Not at this time," said Oates. "He'll have an MRI [Magnetic Resonance Imaging] test tomorrow to see if there's a disk problem, but he can probably play in an emergency."
"I'm fine," said Ripken.
Hagerstown manager Jerry Narron, pitching coach Steve Luebber and trainer Brian Ebel attended last night's game on a day off for the Suns, who are en route to Albany, N.Y. . . . Cal Ripken's .362 batting average entering last night's game was the highest ever for an Oriole this late in the season (previous best: Frank Robinson .356 in 1970). He is the first Oriole since Ken Singleton in 1981 to lead the majors in average after June 1. . . . Indiana basketball coach Bobby Knight sat behind home plate at last night's game.