MINNEAPOLIS -- The Orioles will conclude their first extended road trip of the year this afternoon, and they are eager to get back to the surprisingly friendly -- if not entirely familiar -- confines of Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
"We've still got a chance to make this a real good road trip," veteran pitcher Rick Sutcliffe said, "but we need to get home. The way the people turn out and pull for us the way they do, we miss that. That's important to a young team like this."
The Orioles cooled off considerably after sweeping the first series of the trip in Kansas City, Mo., but they cannot be disappointed considering that they have clinched a winning record for the nine-game trip. They have made themselves very much at home at their new ballpark, where they have won six of their first seven games.
"I'm looking forward to getting back there," manager Johnny Oates said. "Of course, we've won six of seven there. That probably has something to do with it. It's fun going out there when you have 45,000 people in the stands every night. If you can't get motivated to play under those conditions, you'll never be."
Sutcliffe's enthusiasm is understandable. He has pitched there two times and thrown two shutouts. He is 1-2 with a 5.12 ERA on the road.
Martinez in limbo
Outfielder Chito Martinez is "in limbo," said Oates, and will remain in an undefined role until some other things shake themselves out on the roster.
Martinez has appeared in just eight games, only two of them in the starting lineup, during the first three weeks of the season. He is scheduled to start today, but his playing time doesn't figure to increase substantially in the near future.
"I haven't really given him a role yet," Oates said. "It's subject to change. I've just asked him to bear with me until things work out."
Martinez has not been quick to adapt to a reserve/pinch-hit role. He is hitless in 10 at-bats, but earned an RBI with a bases-loaded walk.
He hit 13 home runs after being called up last July and arrived at spring training as the favorite to play regularly in right field, but it hasn't worked out that way. Joe Orsulak has gotten most of the playing time against right-handed pitching. Luis Mercedes has been playing against left-handers.
Martinez has, in a sense, been a victim of the success that Brady Anderson has had in the leadoff role. Anderson has become an everyday player in left field, and with Mike Devereaux the full-time center fielder, that leaves only one outfield position open for Orsulak, Martinez and Mercedes.
Oates has explained the situation, and Martinez has had to accept a lesser role than he would have liked.
"He told me, 'Hey, I want to play, but I don't want to rock the boat,' " Oates said. "He said, 'If that's my role, I'll make the best of it. I'll learn to do it. It might be good for me.' "
Milligan to return
First baseman-designated hitter Randy Milligan has shaken most of the effects from his collision with second baseman Bill Ripken in Kansas City and is expected to return to the starting lineup today.
"Randy will be the DH," Oates said. "He could have played today, but he still had a little crick in his neck, so we'll give him one more day."
Milligan was available to pinch hit.
Milacki likes Minnesota
Right-hander Bob Milacki may be the only member of the Orioles who likes playing in the Metrodome. The club is 5-11 here since July 25, 1989, but Milacki is 3-0 during the same period.
Milacki is scheduled to start today's series finale against 20-game winner John Smiley.
* Mark Williamson threw lightly yesterday and Monday, but still is experiencing tightness in his sore elbow. The right-handed reliever is not yet scheduled to throw off a mound.
* Left-handed reliever Jim Poole remains on schedule to begin a rehabilitation assignment in about two weeks.