The Orioles' starting catcher, Chris Hoiles, will miss four to six weeks after suffering a fractured wrist in last night's game against the New York Yankees, prompting the return of Rick Dempsey as an active player.
Dempsey, 42, has been serving as an unofficial coach-instructor since the team chose Jeff Tackett as the backup catcher the day before the season began.
"I hate to see this happen at a time we really needed him," Dempsey said of Hoiles, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list. "Hoiles has been one of our MVPs. He and Brady [Anderson] have held us together.
"But I'm glad they came to me to take his place."
X-rays taken at University Hospital revealed that the ulna bone in Hoiles' right wrist was cracked when he was struck by a Tim Leary pitch in the second inning of an 8-2 Orioles defeat that included a controversy involving charges that Leary was doctoring the baseball.
The Orioles played the game under protest, and manager Johnny Oates said he believed Hoiles was hit by an illegal pitch.
Hoiles was removed from the game in the fourth when Tackett pinch-hit for him.
"I went back out to catch and I had a tough time throwing the ball back to the pitcher," said Hoiles. "Then I was the second hitter of the next inning, and I picked up a bat and couldn't swing."
Hoiles said Leary's pitches seemed to be "moving twice as much as normal," and an angry Oates said: "In my opinion, he got hit by an illegal pitch, a pitch you can't control. That's why spitballs were outlawed, because of the excessive movement."
The development shifts Tackett into the No. 1 role after he has played sparingly and well as the backup.
"I'm very excited about it, but I have to go out and play my own game," said Tackett. "I can't try to play above my head."
Tackett also was empathetic to Hoiles and said: "You don't like to get in there because somebody got hit. Hopefully, I can help keep the teamright where we're at while he's away."
Another possibility is Lance Parrish, who was released by the California Angels yesterday and would be available for signing tomorrow.
For now, the Orioles have one of their legendary players back in Dempsey, who has been catching batting practice, hitting and keeping his legs in shape by running with the pitchers.
"I think the only problem I might have is catching up to some of the real hard throwers if I get a chance to start," he said. "Tonight, I can go home without having to do any PR [public relations] work.
"I'll go say a few prayers and hope I can pick up the slack."
Hoiles missed one game earlier in the year after being hit in the helmet by a Von Hayes backswing against the California Angels in the final game of the West Coast trip June 4. After a day off, he continued to suffer aftereffects and did not play in the opener of the Toronto Blue Jays series here.