MILWAUKEE -- The major-league roster limit will rise to 40 in less than two weeks, but John Oates said yesterday that he does not expect the Baltimore Orioles to use many of the extra roster spots.
"I personally would like to zero in on a few guys," Oates said. "We don't have a whole lot of guys we don't know that much about."
The Sept. 1 roster expansion is intended to give teams an opportunity to evaluate their minor-league talent in a major-league setting, but the Orioles already have begun that process.
The Orioles youth movement is in full swing. Last year's top draft choice -- right-hander Mike Mussina -- is in the starting rotation. Outfielder Chito Martinez and reliever Jim Poole also are on the major-league roster. All might have been September call-ups if the club had been more competitive with the players who opened the season.
"I don't think there will be as many [call-ups] as people might expect," Oates added. "There are going to be some players we want to see, but five of six of them are already here."
The most celebrated prospect remaining in the minor leagues is left-hander Arthur Rhodes, who is likely to join the Orioles rotation in the next few weeks, perhaps even before Sept. 1. Outfielder Luis Mercedes probably will get a chance to show what he can do in the leadoff spot. But the locker room doesn't figure to be overcrowded.
It is no certainty that the team will recall demoted veterans Jeff Ballard, Jeff Robinson, Paul Kilgus and Craig Worthington. The final weeks probably will be spent experimenting with the younger players.
"We have three priorities," Oates said. "No. 1 -- win as many games as we can. No. 2 -- improve our young players as much as we can. We'll do a lot of teaching these last seven weeks. And No. 3 -- make sure we get to see the people who we might have questions about."
Catcher Bob Melvin, who was hit on the hand by a thrown ball in Friday night's game against the Milwaukee Brewers, underwent precautionary X-rays before last night's game.
Melvin remained in Friday's game and played six innings with the bruised hand, but apparently experienced some swelling overnight.
"His hand was a little bit puffy," Oates said, "so he went to have it checked out."
Melvin was not in the starting lineup last night, but Oates said he wouldn't have started, anyway. He is tentatively scheduled to start today, depending on how he feels.
Davis back tomorrow?
The Orioles continue to insist that there is no timetable for Glenn Davis' return to the active roster, but it seems likely that he'll be joining the team in time for the three-game series with the Texas Rangers that begins tomorrow night at Arlington Stadium.
Friday night in Hagerstown, Davis hit the first home run of his injury-rehabilitation assignment and played another full game at first base, leaving room to wonder what is left for him to do there.
"If he's able to hit a home run and play nine innings, he should be getting pretty close," Oates said.
The Brewers entered last night's game batting a combined .280 since the All-Star break, but they were 2 games under .500 (17-19), anyway. The Brewers ranked fifth in the league overall at .264. . . . The Orioles are the top fielding team in the league, leading the Twins and the Angels in fielding percentage by a small fraction of a percentage point. All are listed at .985, but the Orioles have 1 fewer error and more total chances.