TORONTO -- Third baseman Leo Gomez struggled at the plate all spring, but he apparently worked out his problems at just the right time.
Gomez had two hits and a walk in four at-bats during yesterday's 7- 2 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays at SkyDome. The solid performance raised his batting average to .438 and extended his season-opening hitting streak to five games. He is the only Orioles player to hit safely in every game this year.
The turnaround has been abrupt, but Gomez finds it easy to explain.
"During the spring, I was trying to pull everything, no matter where they pitched me," he said. "Now, I just want to make good contact. Wherever the ball is pitched, that's where I'll go."
Only a few weeks ago, Gomez went to manager John Oates to express his frustration and assure his manager that he was working as hard as he did when he had to compete for playing time with Craig Worthington.
"Just because I'm the only third baseman here, I didn't want anyone to think that I thought I didn't have to work as hard," Gomez said. "I feel better now. I'm very relaxed at the plate right now. I'm swinging at my pitches."
It shows. He singled and doubled in his first two at-bats against Blue Jays ace Jack Morris yesterday and has four hits in seven at-bats against the tough Toronto pitching staff.
First baseman Glenn Davis continues to get treatment in Baltimore for a rib-cage strain. Assistant GM Frank Robinson said Davis could rejoin the club in time for Tuesday's game with the Boston Red Sox, but club officials will consult with team orthopedist Dr. Charles Silberstein before making a final determination. Davis has missed four games with the injury, and will miss at least two more. If the inflammation has not subsided in a few days, the club will have to consider putting him on the disabled list, retroactive to Tuesday.
Things are looking up for Canadian baseball fans, but not because the Blue Jays and Montreal Expos are doing so well this year.
SkyDome officials had to cordon off the east and south exits of the building during yesterday's game because of falling ice from the nearby CN Tower. Lest anyone forget, Olympic Stadium in Montreal had to be closed for months after a large piece of concrete fell into the stands last year.
The coincidence was explained away easily by sportswriter Larry Millson of The Globe and Mail, a Toronto-based newspaper: "The law of gravity is just more strictly enforced here."
Center fielder Mike Devereaux was out of the starting lineup for the first time this year, and Oates had a ready explanation for his absence.
Devereaux may have homered in his past two games, but he is 1-for-15 lifetime against Blue Jays starter Morris. The move also assured that he would be well-rested for the string of 15 straight games the club plays after Tuesday's day off in Boston.
Oates didn't have a lot of attractive lineup options against Morris. Three of his top hitters -- Devereaux, Sam Horn and Randy Milligan -- entered the game a combined 3-for-44. Horn (1-for-14) was the only one of the three to start yesterday's game.
McLemore makes first start
Utility player Mark McLemore made his first start as an Oriole in yesterday's game and had a chance to make a great first impression in the second inning. He came to the plate against Morris with runners at second and third and two out, but didn't get much of an opportunity to swing the bat. Morris walked him to load the bases and then got Brady Anderson on a long fly ball to center field.
Olson in review
Oates said after yesterday's game that he would not make any quick judgments about relief stopper Gregg Olson, who gave up three hits and blew his first save opportunity of the year. He did say, however, that there are times when Olson's velocity is not as good as it has been in the past.
"I don't think it's consistently what he's been topped out to be," Oates said, "but he's throwing the ball OK."
The bird flu
Two more Orioles came up sick yesterday. Anderson was miserable all morning with what appeared to be a stomach flu, and Chito Martinez complained of chills on the way to the ballpark, but both were in the starting lineup.