ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- If you were wondering about the ground rules at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, it will be a few more weeks before anything is decided.
Manager John Oates said yesterday that club officials will do a walk-through of the park on the morning before the April 3 exhibition game against the New York Mets and then decide how some of the unusual features of the ballpark will play in certain situations.
"The morning of the Mets game, I will explore the park with Frank [Robinson, assistant general manager], Roland [Hemond, general manager] and maybe someone like Marty Springstead or the umpires," Oates said. "Then we'll set the ground rules."
Springstead, the American League supervisor of umpires, has toured the facility and probably will have some input.
Each stadium has its own set of ground rules, though they cannot conflict with the uniform playing rules of baseball. The new stadium may have more rules than most, because of its non-symmetrical configuration.
Oates said the team will need some time to get used to it. The Orioles will play there on April 3 and work out there the day before the April 6 opener against the Cleveland Indians.
"We don't know how it's going to play, so if we have an off day during the early part of the season, we're going to be working out there," he said. "We're going to have to learn the park. The walls, different infield grass. It's going to take some time."
* LAUNCH: Catcher Chris Hoiles hit a bases-empty home run off lefthander Jimmy Key in the third inning of yesterday's 3-1 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays in the Orioles' exhibition home opener at Al Lang Stadium.
It was Hoiles' first hit in four Grapefruit League at-bats. The Orioles went on to score three runs in the third, two of them on a single by Cal Ripken.
"Today I felt really good," Hoiles said. "The other day, I didn't feel as comfortable, but today I made better contact."
* MVP II: Ripken apparently is picking up where he left off last year, when he had one of the most productive offensive seasons ever by a player at his position.
Ripken turned in a 2-for-3 performance with two RBI in Friday's exhibition opener, and delivered a two-run single in yesterday's game to tie Chito Martinez for the club RBI lead.
* SAVING GRACE: Reliever Gregg Olson made his first Grapefruit League appearance yesterday, walking one batter in a hitless ninth on the way to an easy save.
"I was feeling my way around," said Olson, who struggled with his curveball, but not with the Blue Jays. "You don't have all the command you want, but that's what spring training is for. My curveball was not good, but I'm finally getting some velocity back in it. It'll take awhile."
Olson hopes to have an added intimidation factor this year. He's growing a Fu Manchu mustache that should be ready for Opening Day.
* PITCHING IN: Four other pitchers made their Grapefruit League debuts:
* Lefthander Mike Flanagan gave up a run on three hits in two innings.
* Righthander Jose Mesa pitched two scoreless innings, giving up two hits.
* Newcomer Alan Mills pitched a perfect seventh.
* Setup man Mark Williamson got away with three hits and pitched a scoreless eighth.