MIAMI -- Orioles manager John Oates was to announce the starting pitchers for the first four games of the regular season today, but he may wait another week before deciding who will move into the fifth slot in the rotation.
Righthander Rick Sutcliffe long has been expected to be the Opening Day pitcher because his regular turn in the rotation would fall on April 6. The most likely alternative would appear to be Mike Mussina -- whose turn falls on Sunday, a day off, but the club has made a point of keeping him out of the limelight during spring training.
Oates left open the possibility that he would juggle the rotation this week, but it seems unlikely that he will bypass the obvious choice (Sutcliffe) to choose among the pitchers who make up the youthful core of the rotation.
The decision was to be announced after Oates had a chance to inform the pitchers involved.
He can afford to hold off on the fifth starter, who won't move into the rotation until April 12, after the Opening Day starter makes his second start. The front four seem obvious, but Oates would not rule out a surprise. Righthander Jose Mesa has moved up in the manager's estimation with 20 consecutive scoreless innings this spring, but it still would be considered a major upset if he has moved up higher than fifth in the rotation.
* SWEET SWEEP: The Orioles turned in another big offensive performance yesterday to defeat the Toronto Blue Jays, 11-7, and sweep the two-game set at Joe Robbie Stadium. Five players -- Cal Ripken, Chito Martinez, Mike Devereaux, Jeff Tackett and Glenn Davis -- had two hits each in the club's 15th victory of the exhibition season.
Oates was pleased with everything he saw, especially in the wake of the infuriating, five-error performance the club turned in Friday against the Blue Jays in Dunedin.
"We did some good things," Oates said. "We did some situational hitting. Randy [Milligan] went deep in the count and then hit behind the runner. Luis Mercedes brought home two runs with sacrifice flies. You're not going to do it every time, but I saw the mental process was there."
* OLSON OK: Reliever Gregg Olson threw on the side Saturday and apparently had no problems with the cut that has developed again on the middle finger of his pitching hand.
Olson has cut the finger on several occasions in the past three years. The injury is the result of his thumbnail rubbing across his fingers after he snaps off his curveball. He pitched with the problem in 1990 and '91, so there is no reason to believe he can't this year.
* CHITO CONNECTS: Rightfielder Martinez apparently has emerged from the lengthy slump that had threatened to obscure his outstanding performance of 1991.
Martinez hit his third home run of the spring yesterday, a bases-empty shot off Blue Jays stopper Tom Henke in the eighth inning.