TORONTO -- For the first time this year, Ben McDonald has put together two strong starts. Just as important, the big righthander said the shoulder stiffness that forced him out of last night's game in the seventh inning won't keep him from making his next scheduled start on Sunday.
"It's nothing to worry about, I'll be back out there for my next start," said McDonald (6-8) after the 8-4 win over the Toronto Blue Jays. He allowed five hits in six innings, with the three runs he allowed coming on home runs by Kelly Gruber and John Olerud.
"He said his shoulder was a little 'cranky' when he threw between starts and he had trouble getting loose when he warmed up," said manager John Oates. "I haven't talked to him yet, and I'm not going to get concerned until I hear more evaluation."
According to McDonald, the manager need not fret, but based on what's happened before in similar situations, Oates could be excused for withholding judgment.
"It tightened up on me a little after we had that long inning [the sixth]," said McDonald. "I could've gone on if necessary."
McDonald was upbeat after the game. "Now that I'm healthy I'm pitching like I know I can," he said. "I've felt the curveball coming the last four or five times out there and tonight the changeup was a real big pitch for me. Before I was having trouble getting a second pitch into the strike zone."
McDonald didn't walk a batter last night and had 54 strikes in the 80 pitches he threw. "They chased some curveballs, which indicates to me it had good bite to it," said Oates. "And he made more good pitches with his changeup tonight than he has all year."
* STACY'S EXPENSIVE INJURY: Stacy Jones wasn't recalled from Rochester because he has been shut down for at least two weeks with what is described as a "slight injury to the rotator cuff."
Instead, the Orioles added Francisco de la Rosa, who reported last night and is expected to remain with the team the rest of the year.
Jones was with the Orioles briefly, and at times pitched effectively, earlier in the year. "We had promised him he'd be back," said Oates, "but I don't see how it would do much good. The first report we got was that he would be out 10 days to two weeks, so I'm not sure where we stand with him."
If the injury is slight, it will hurt Jones in the shoulder a lot less than it will in his pocket. A last-month promotion to the big leagues is worth about $16,000 to a minor leaguer.
After being promoted from Double A Hagerstown, de la Rosa was 4-1 with three saves and a 2.67 earned run average with Triple A Rochester. He was the only righthander available for long relief last night because Mark Williamson reported some tenderness in his left side (which caused him to be disabled a month ago) when he threw Monday.
* STILL NO WORD ON CITO: Toronto manager Cito Gaston has missed 14 games since being hospitalized Aug. 21 because of chronic back pain. He has been diagnosed as having a herniated disk and has shown minimal improvement at best.
There is some speculation that Gaston might not be able to return this year. In his absence, hitting instructor Gene Tenace has an 8-6 record.
* THIS 'N THAT: Joe Orsulak, who jammed his right shoulder Sunday in Minnesota, took batting practice last night and might return to the lineup tonight. Oates is toying with the idea of playing Orsulak, Brady Anderson and Chito Martinez in the outfield and resting Mike Devereaux, who has poor numbers against Todd Stottlemyre.
The Orioles went into last night's game with a collective .397 batting average against David Wells (13-10) -- and got nine hits in five innings against the lefthander.
Mike Flanagan, who is third in the American League with 86 1/3 relief innings, pitched the last three last night to earn his third save of the year. Glenn Davis was in a 1-for-19 rut before putting together three straight hits.
Cal Ripken, who was given a team-high 13th intentional walk in the seventh inning, went hitless for the third straight game, matching his longest stretch of the year (July 14-16).
The Blue Jays had beaten the Orioles four in a row before last night and have a 7-5 advantage in the season series.