TORONTO -- Orioles manager John Oates said today's simulated game with pitcher Ben McDonald may lead him back to the starting rotation by next week.
McDonald, who has been on the disabled list since May 24, was to throw four innings or 50 pitches of a simulated game today, as part of a non-hurried return to the starting rotation.
Oates said McDonald will get three days off with a workday thrown in the middle, before getting a 65- to 70-pitch warmup later in the week.
If all goes well, McDonald could start either in Cleveland on June 26 or at home against Detroit on July 1, to get him three starts before the All-Star break and the first start afterward in Oakland on July 11.
* HITTING BY THE NUMBERS: Catcher Bob Melvin was finally retired yesterday on a strikeout after six straight base hits, including a 5-for-5 performance Saturday.
Melvin, who doubled to left to drive in the Orioles' first run, became the first Baltimore catcher in 37 years to get five hits in a game, since Clint "Scrap Iron" Courtney got five hits in the second game of a doubleheader against the Washington Senators on Aug. 29, 1954.
He went 6-for-8 in Toronto to raise his average from .235 to .280, third highest on the club.
Meanwhile, shortstop Cal Ripken continued his torrid league-leading pace, racking up a career-high fifth straight multi-hit game and getting his 30th multi-hit game, which leads the majors.
Ripken, who leads the league at .359, is batting an amazing .543 on artificial turf this season and is .311 lifetime on the fake stuff.
* SICK CALL: Outfielder Dwight Evans, who went on the DL Friday night with a sore heel, participated in some stretching exercises and took some throws at first base, but did not hit yesterday.
Brady Anderson, who came off the list Friday night, started all three games of the Toronto series.
Meanwhile, second baseman Bill Ripken made his first start in five games yesterday. He had missed nine of the previous 16 games with a stiff back.
* QUICK HITS: Joe Orsulak's pinch grand slam in the seventh yesterday was the first of its kind against Blue Jays pitching since Sam Horn went deep last Sept. 14 at the SkyDome. Reliever Duane Ward gave up both shots.
Randy Milligan tied a club record with his four runs scored. The Orioles' 13 runs are the most they've scored this season and are the most given up by Toronto since last May 14, when Seattle touched the Jays for 14 runs.
* DOWN THE LINE: If the past is any indication, the Orioles will have their hands full with Minnesota first baseman Kent Hrbek in the three-game series that begins tonight.
Hrbek, who has raised his batting average more than 160 points during the Twins' 15-game winning streak, has connected for 16 home runs in 37 games against the Orioles.
That mark is second-best among active players, surpassed only by current Baltimore outfielder Dwight Evans, who has 31 homers against Orioles pitching during his 18-year career.
* O CANADA: According to the Toronto Sun, if current projections hold, the Blue Jays will pass the Montreal Expos in all-time attendance around the 25th home date next season.
Sound insignificant? Well, consider that the Blue Jays came into existence in 1977, a full eight years behind the Expos, and would have caught them in 14 years.
Since 1983, when Montreal last drew 2 million fans in a season, Toronto has outdrawn the Expos 19.6 million to 10.7, an almost 2-1 ratio.