SEATTLE -- Baltimore Orioles manager John Oates said last night that demoted pitcher Jeff Robinson was given every opportunity to reveal that he was unable to pitch because of a nagging groin injury.
"The day before his last start," Oates said, "I went to the outfield and offered to move him back a few days in the rotation. He said, 'No, I'm healthy. I'm ready to pitch.' "
Robinson and Jeff Ballard were optioned to the Class AAA
Rochester Red Wings on Tuesday, but Robinson did not go quietly. He blasted the club and revealed that he recently had received a pair of cortisone shots to alleviate the groin problem.
Oates said he was aware of the the two injections, but that the club's medical staff had cleared Robinson to pitch.
"If there was any question, he wouldn't have pitched," Oates said. "I'm not going to risk a man's career for one game."
Robinson also charged that the club optioned him because he was one start shy of the $25,000 incentive bonus he would have received for his 20th start, but both Oates and club president Larry Lucchino insist that there was no connection between his contract status and his removal from the Orioles starting rotation.
"I just hope for his sake that he wasn't trying to get a couple more starts in hurt to get to his incentives," Oates said. "He knows what his incentives are. I wasn't aware of them.
"There was never any mention that he might not be able to pitch. If either he or Jeff Ballard had even hinted that they were not able to pitch, they would not have pitched."
Bill Ripken close, but . . .
Second baseman Bill Ripken is eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list and says he could be ready to play this weekend in Chicago, but Oates said that the club will treat his rib-cage strain very conservatively.
"There's always a chance," Oates said. "Maybe at home [next week] would be more reasonable. When you're 17 games out on Aug. 1, you can afford to give him as much time as he needs. If he were Jose Canseco and it was Oct. 1 and the club was one game ahead, maybe it would be different."
Ripken went through another day of workouts yesterday and says that he has not experienced any renewed soreness in the right side of his rib cage.
Tickets for the Orioles last series at Memorial Stadium, Oct. 4-6 against the Detroit Tigers, go on sale tomorrow at 9 a.m. at the stadium and other Orioles ticket outlets or by calling 481-6000.
There will be a limit of four tickets per customer tomorrow only.
The Orioles, anticipating that fans will be camping out at Memorial Stadium tonight, ask that the prospective ticket-buyers park in the West Lot.
Martinez takes off
Rookie outfielder Chito Martinez returned to his home in suburban New Orleans yesterday to be with his wife, who was close to giving birth to the couple's second child. He probably will rejoin the club in Chicago.
New kids on the mound
Jim Poole, who debuted impressively in Tuesday night's game, stands to get a lot of innings in long relief if he continues to pitch well.
"Poole threw 40 pitches last night," Oates said. "He hasn't thrown more than 55 pitches in an outing, but I'm going to stretch him out a little bit."
The Orioles finished with the third worst July performance in their history. They entered last night's game with a 9-17 record for the month. They have done worse only in 1954 (9-21) and 1955 (10-51). . . . The Orioles entered last night having held a lead in 17 of their previous 23 games, but won only 8 of those games. . . . Sam Horn's batting average has improved every month this season. He hit .214 in April, .220 in May, .247 in June and entered last night hitting .264 in July.