Though he started spring training without a place on the Orioles roster, Mark McLemore has earned a share of the second base job, manager Johnny Oates said yesterday.
Oates said both McLemore and Bill Ripken, the incumbent second baseman, were performing too well for him to choose one over the other.
"The way they're playing right now, I don't have a guy that's going to play five straight games," said Oates. "Both are playing well. There's no use burying one of them when they're both playing well."
McLemore, who pushed in an insurance run in Sunday's 8-6 win over Seattle with a squeeze bunt base hit in the eighth, has hit .417 in his last seven games and is batting .368 overall, the best average on the team, in 38 at-bats.
Ripken, who started last night because of his .333 average against Texas starter Jose Guzman, has just one fewer RBI than McLemore, and is considered better defensively.
* HOMEWARD BOUND: Mike Devereaux's first-inning steal of home was the first such swipe since Lee Lacy stole home on Aug. 28, 1986, at Oakland in the second game of a doubleheader.
Devereaux's steal, like Lacy's, came on a double steal with Cal Ripken taking second. It was the 30th time in club history that an Oriole has stolen home, with all but four of them coming on double steals.
* TICKET UPDATE: About 500 tickets were left for today's game. For the two-game Minnesota series, 5,000 seats remain for tomorrow's game, while 3,000 are left for Thursday's bargain night, where all upper reserved seats are $4.
About 1,500 seats are left for Friday's series opener with Chicago, while 1,000 tickets are available for both Saturday's game and Sunday's contest, which closes a nine-game homestand.
* RYAN'S READ: Future Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan, who was to have pitched in a regular-season game in his 35th stadium today -- believed to be a record -- was generally impressed with the new ballpark.
"I like what I see. They've done a nice job. It's a new park, but it has the old park look to it," said Ryan. "It's an old look, but they made it comfortable for the fans. I'll let you know how it plays after [today]."
Ryan has recorded wins in 30 of the previous 34 ballparks he's pitched, with the exceptions being Pittsburgh's Forbes Field, Municipal Stadium in Kansas City, SkyDome in Toronto and the new Comiskey Park in Chicago.
* NO FRANCO: Rangers second baseman Julio Franco, the reigning American League batting champion, went back on the 15-day disabled list yesterday with a bone bruise on his right knee.
Franco, who hit .341 last season, was sidelined through most of spring training and began the season on the disabled list. He was activated on April 19, and went 4-for-16 in eight games.
Franco's spot on the roster is being taken by infielder-outfielder Monty Fariss.
* RIPKEN EXHIBIT: The Babe Ruth Museum will open an exhibit on Cal Ripken's career from Little League to the major leagues starting Friday at 1:30 p.m., when Ripken will be on hand. Uniforms, awards, photographs and memorabilia will be featured. Admission to the museum, at 216 Emory St., will be free Friday between 1:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Call (410) 727-1539.
* AROUND THE HORN: Bob Milacki's fourth-inning exit marks only the sixth time this season that an Orioles starter has failed to pitch at least six innings. Milacki has left before the sixth three times. . . . Randy Milligan will donate $5,000 in baseball equipment to the Forest Park Little League. . . . The Orioles are batting .545 (12-for-22) with the bases loaded, with three grand slams, including Chris Hoiles' homer last night. . . . The Orioles have homered 12 times in their last four games at Camden Yards, with 16 homers in their last seven games at home. . . . The team leads the majors in extra-base hits with 82, and is averaging 5.3 runs, also best in either league.