FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Manager John Oates said yesterday that he will announce his Opening Day starter after the two-game weekend series against the Toronto Blue Jays at Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami.
"I plan on telling someone this weekend," Oates said. "We'll probably announce it after we get back."
The announcement probably will be no surprise. Barring a last-minute change in the rotation, it will be Rick Sutcliffe's turn to pitch on April 6, and he has been the most logical choice to make the start.
Mike Mussina has been the best starter in camp, but it seems unlikely that Oates and pitching coach Dick Bosman will want to put their youngest starter in that situation. Sutcliffe gives them someone with strong career credentials and keeps them from having to decide among Mussina, Ben McDonald and Bob Milacki.
* HOILES PARKS ANOTHER: Catcher Chris Hoiles sent another into the jet stream in yesterday's 6-5 loss to the Minnesota Twins at Lee County Stadium. He homered off starter Kevin Tapani in the second inning and contributed an RBI double to increase his spring RBI total to 10. He ranks second on the team to Cal Ripken in that department.
Hoiles also had a big day behind the plate, throwing out two would-be base stealers.
* DENNIS NO MENACE: Lefthander Dennis Rasmussen gave up five hits and a walk to the first six hitters he faced yesterday and went on to yield four runs on six hits in a two-inning relief appearance.
"I just got the ball up and there were a lot of free swingers out there," Rasmussen said. "It was one of those days. I didn't make very good pitches in the strike zone. I made a few good first pitches, but they hit them, too."
Rasmussen, who signed a minor-league contract and came to camp as a non-roster invitee, is expected to make the club as a long reliever, but he has to show Oates that he can adapt to the rigors of regular relief work.
"I think I can do that," he said. "I feel good, but I need to make some adjustments when I come in after someone else. I didn't feel real comfortable landing in the holes [left by the other pitchers]. I've got to be able to adjust."
* MORE MESA: Righthander Jose Mesa is scheduled to pitch six innings in a minor-league camp game early today, and Oates will be in Sarasota to see him throw.
Mesa has worked nine scoreless innings in exhibition play and five perfect innings in a "B" game. He has moved into serious consideration for the fifth spot in the starting rotation, but doubt lingers that he can pitch consistently for an extended period.
He opened the 1991 season in the rotation and was the team's most effective starter for the first month of play. He led the club with four victories on May 11, but went on to post a 1-8 record during his next 15 starts.
Mesa is out of options, so he must make the major-league roster or the Orioles risk losing him on waivers. It seems likely he'll start the season in the rotation, with Storm Davis and/or Rasmussen marking time in long relief in case Mesa falters.
* HETZEL EXAMINED: Righthander Eric Hetzel was scheduled to visit orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews yesterday in Birmingham, Ala. Hetzel has been complaining of shoulder soreness and appears to be a candidate for surgery. He no longers appears to be a candidate for the major-league pitching staff, though he is signed to a major-league contract.
* ARUNDEL SNAG: Anne Arundel officials say talks have broken off with the owners of the Hagerstown Suns, who were considering moving the Double-A Eastern League franchise to Anne Arundel County.
Louise Hayman, a spokeswoman for Anne Arundel County Executive Robert Neall, said county officials met three weeks ago with Peter Kirk, one of the Suns owners. The county began looking for a new stadium site, but was unable to provide a suitable site or funding for the project, she said.
"Our budget is tight, and he wanted us to put up $3 million to help build the stadium," she said. "We are unable to afford that, so we turned them down."
Hagerstown is one of six communities vying for two expansion Single-A South Atlantic League teams.