NEW YORK -- Left-hander Jeff Ballard may be making his final start as a Baltimore Oriole when he takes the mound tonight for the final game of the series at Yankee Stadium.
Ballard has not started a game since July 27, just days before he was optioned to the Class AAA Rochester Red Wings. Manager John Oates moved him into the rotation for tonight's game because he wanted to pitch two left-handers in New York.
"I don't think that one start is going to make or break anything," said Ballard, who is 6-11 with a 5.34 ERA. "It matters to me because I just want to end the season on a good note."
The Orioles have not said whether Ballard still is in their plans, but he does not figure to be a strong candidate for the starting rotation next spring. If he wants to remain a starter, he might have to hope that he gets traded or released before then.
"I think that's pretty much up in the air," he said. "I don't know if they know. I think they'll probably be looking to move me if they can and go from there.
"I told them, the place I want to play most is here, but I don't want to spend next year in Rochester. I'll play for any other Triple-A team but Rochester."
There is some logic there. Ballard already is a known quantity in the Orioles organization, so a strong performance in the minor leagues isn't going to get anyone particularly excited in Baltimore.
"They just look back at what you did before," Ballard said. "If you go to a new organization and you do well, they're all excited."
Ballard is caught in the middle. He doesn't have enough service time to dictate his future. He also doesn't have the numbers. In the two years since his 18-victory season in 1989, he is a combined 8-22.
"If they don't want me in the rotation, I don't know what they'll do," he said. "They don't want to release me, I don't think, and I like it in Baltimore. I'm not anxious to leave town."
Yankees to unveil top pick
The New York Yankees announced last night that Brien Taylor, the No. 1 pick in the June free-agent draft, will make his professional debut in a Florida Instructional League game on Oct. 9 against a team from Korea. The game will take place at
the Yankees' spring-training complex in Tampa.
Orioles designated hitter Sam Horn hit his 23rd home run of the season in the second inning. He is averaging a home run every 13.6 at-bats, which ranks him among the most dangerous hitters in the major leagues.
Horn also reached 60 RBI, though he has little more than a half-season's worth of at-bats.
If you harbor any doubt about the importance of good defense, consider the following: In the 95 games this year in which the Orioles have not made an error, they are 48-47. In the 62 games in which they have made an error, they are 18-45. . . . The Orioles and Yankees have combined to pitch a total of 11 complete games this year. White Sox right-hander Jack McDowell (15) and Red Sox right-hander Roger Clemens (12) each have more than that. . . . Opposing hitters have a .183 on-base percentage against left-handed reliever Jim Poole.