OAKLAND, Calif. -- Relief pitcher Kevin Hickey knew he was in trouble, so he wasn't surprised when the Baltimore Orioles designated him for assignment yesterday to make room on the roster for outfielder Dwight Evans.
Everyone knew that Evans would return from the disabled list after the All-Star break. Hickey knew that the sixth guy in the bullpen would be the logical choice to step aside.
"It's never easy," he said, "but I can't say that I'm surprised. I think I really hurt myself with that last outing. I was hoping to get an opportunity to redeem myself, but that's the way it goes sometimes."
That last outing was a five-run ninth inning at Yankee Stadium that sent his ERA into the stratosphere (9.00). Hickey has been effective against certain left-handed hitters, but he has not been consistent enough to argue his dismissal.
"It reached the point where of the 11 pitchers we had, he was the least likely to fit into our future plans," manager John Oates said. "When you make a decision like that, it's not over the short term. You look at the present and the future."
It was the second time this year Hickey has been told that his services would no longer be needed. The first time, he took it hard, because he had pitched well enough in spring training to make the club. This time, he took the news calmly, seemingly resigned to the likelihood that his career is nearing an end.
"I had a good ride," he said. "I don't feel like I'm going out a loser. I think when people think of me, they know I gave 120 percent, was always enthusiastic and gave my all. That's how I'd like to be remembered."
He will remain with the club for the 10-day assignment period, during which he can be traded, assigned to the minor leagues or waived for the purpose of giving him his unconditional release. The minor-league option, which gave him a second chance this year, apparently won't be open this time, and a trade seems unlikely. But Hickey still holds out some hope of continuing his career.
"I talked to Frank [Robinson]," Hickey said. "He thinks I can still get left-handed hitters out. I just hope there is room somewhere. I'll continue to work out and hope something opens up."
Evans spent more than three weeks on the disabled list with an inflamed right Achilles' tendon. He returned to the starting lineup last night as the designated hitter, going 0-for-2 with two walks. Rookie outfielder Chito Martinez hit a towering drive over the center-field fence last night for his first major-league home run.
Martinez was sent into the game as a pinch hitter, but took advantage of his one swing to hit safely in his fourth straight game since being called up from the Class AAA Rochester Red Wings. He has six hits in his first 14 major-league at-bats for a .428 average.
Ballard to bullpen
Left-hander Jeff Ballard was sent to the bullpen yesterday to fill the void left when Hickey was designated for assignment.
Ballard is scheduled to start on Monday against the California Angels, but was available for limited duty last night.
The Oakland Athletics activated left-hander Joe Klink in time for last night's game. Klink had been on the disabled list since a line drive off the bat of Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Dante Bichette fractured his right foot.
To make room on the roster, the A's optioned infielder Scott Hemond to the Class AAA Tacoma Tigers.
The A's have announced that right-hander Eric Show will be activated in time to start against the Orioles tomorrow. Show has spent the past month pitching at the Class AAA level. . . The Orioles bullpen was called upon to pitch 3 innings or more in 49 of the club's first 80 games.